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Should physicians be required to practice what they preach?

By March 2, 2009 - 8:26pm
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When you go to the doctor’s office for a check up, the physician is a wealth of information on how to help maintain your health.

What do think when the same doctor who is telling you what you should and shouldn’t do is seen outside smoking cigarettes. Should physicians be required to Practice what they Preach or do we have to learn to separate their professional advice from their personal choices?

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EmpowHER Guest

We are all human and NO ONE is perfect.However, I would be annoyed if a doctor,co worker, friend or whomever were to lecture me about my smoking habits only to find out they can't kick the habit themselves.

I would respect and appreciate that person more if they were honest and said I've had trouble dealing with this too and this is what I've tried. Hey, this may work for you. We all feel better when we have someone who we can trust to be realistic whether it's your trainer ,friend,nutitionalist etc.

To answer your question unless they are involved in some illegal or immoral activity ..no we shouldn't hold them accountable for being human.The great thing is you can choose whether or not this person is for you.

March 3, 2009 - 2:51pm

To me, this just sounds like a dangerous road to discrimination, and is very short-sided on only viewing "health" in the traditional medical model of focusing only on the observable behaviors of physical health. Is this to say that health care providers should practice all dimensions of health and wellness to their fullest potential, those including mental, social, environmental, spiritual, emotional and physical wellness? Why are we holding this occupation to such high, God-like standards, and not all professions? It is ironic that we hold them to higher-than-human standards, then when (some) doctors act in this higher-than-thee manner, we become defensive and angry patients and consumers of medicine.

I hope that everyone whom considers themselves a "health and wellness expert" does not fall into a trap of becoming the health police, as this is such a turn-off for people who are actively trying to better themselves (doctors or not). "Health" should be welcoming, mindful and positive; not judgmental, critical or shameful. Especially those health experts who consider themselves "holistic" practitioners...there are many more aspects of wellness to consider!

No wonder individuals who choose to smoke are so angry at non-smokers for isolating, judging and criticizing! This is no way to help people choose to become smoke-free, whatever their chosen profession.

To me, there is much, much more than just practicing physical health. There are six dimensions of health and wellness: physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, social and mental. If my health care provider, or anyone for that matter, practices 5 of the 6 dimensions of wellness in the most optimal manner, but is lacking in one area, I do not think this is cause for alarm or to put-down an entire, high-stress occupation! With that said, yes, it does bother me to see nurses, doctors and other health care providers smoking...I honestly can't say that I would stick with a doctor if they smelled like smoke in the exam room.

Do you expect your counselor, psychologist or mental-health provider to be at a 100% optimum level also? What if they smoke? What if they do not exercise? What if they are sad? What if they did not eat their veggies last night or get 8 hours of sleep? If you don't expect perfection, then what is OK? How can you tell if someone is always/sometimes/never practicing what they preach in all these areas? And, if they are not, this is OK to discriminate and judge them?

March 3, 2009 - 1:52pm

Really good food for thought here.

My instinct is to say yes, of course. For all the reasons mentioned above. Though I have no idea how you'd ever enforce such a thing.

But doctors are just people -- humans with the same strengths and weaknesses, genetic tendencies, addictive personalities, optimists or pessimists as the rest of us. They have motivations, joys, disappointments and stresses, and they deal with those things in the same variety of ways that we all do.

It's easy to say that a doctor should know better, especially about something like smoking. But everyone knows better these days, and they still get addicted to it. Therapists sometimes get depressed, or drink too much. Financial advisers sometimes lose their own money. I am sure there are divorced marriage counselors, or nutrition experts who are overweight. We're all just finding our way, faults and all.

Which is not to say I condone a doctor's smoking. My father smoked, and died young, and I hate smoking. But I think knowledge and behavior are separate things, and clearly doctors struggle with that kind of thing the same way anyone else does. It's proof of just how tight a hold tobacco addiction can have on us.

March 3, 2009 - 10:12am
EmpowHER Guest

Have you heard the one about the cobbler's kids - not having shoes. It's an old adage but I would like my doctor to believe in what he says enough to actually follow it. We're all human, so perfection isn't expected but at least an attempt would be good.

March 3, 2009 - 9:13am

Kinnis, great observation! I remember a pulmonologist (lung doctor) who used to be a heavy smoker. You are talking big time contradiction!

The answer to your question is a big YES! Many doctors are not equipped to provide wellness coaching advice to their patients if they do not practice it. At a recent conference I attended along with many physicians, this issue came up. The word is SELF-CARE. The discussion was around the high stress medical student experience from the moment they enter school, medical training and later as practitioners. Toxic habits become part of their lives: not sleeping well, not eating the right foods, etc.

I think this is going to change in the near future. Healthcare Reform will focus in prevention and wellness and the doctors will have to be role models. Otherwise, patients like yourself, will get disenchanted and the doctor lose credibility.

March 2, 2009 - 10:13pm
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