The “Doctor-Patient” Relationship

Thank you to Dr. Aaron Collins for this awesome guest post! We’ll be hearing from several guest bloggers the next few weeks while I’m on maternity leave. I’m excited to share what other people are doing to change the world through chiropractic!


I have been fortunate enough to not have to spend a lot of time at the Doctor’s Office so far in my life.  In the handful of times I have been there, something has really stood out to me – the entire system seems to be set up to protect the doctor from the patient.  When you are looking for the right doctor for you, looking at the facility’s website will tell you little about the doctor other than where they trained.  When you call to make an appointment, asking questions won’t really get you anywhere.  Once you enter the office, there will be a special holding room set up for you, the patient, and there may even be a glass window to protect the staff while they protect the doctor from you.  Once you have answered all of their questions via the paperwork, you will have to wait you turn to ask yours.  When you name is called, you will be escorted through the big door and into the back room where you get to change out of your own clothes into ill-fitting strange clothing they provide for you.  Now you wait…and wait.. and wait.  When the doctor comes in, they stand while you sit, they ask questions and you answer, and then you are told what treatment you need.  Then someone will come back and fetch you, take you to make another appointment from the room you started in.  If you still have questions, we can try to make time to answer them next time.

The whole system seems to be set up to protect the doctor from the patient (based on medicine being the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S., maybe we should be protecting the patient from the doctor).  Culturally, this has turned into the doctor holding a position of authority over patients.  Doctor’s time is very valuable, patient’s time is not.  Doctor has many advocates, patient has none.  Doctor’s opinion on what patient should do is paramount, patient’s opinion of doctor is unimportant.  If anything is making us sick in this country, it’s probably this level of thinking.  It’s very disempowering for the patient, and frankly, it puts the doctor in the position of God.

What if we set things up like my friend Hannah tells us it really works: the doctor is a guide, NOT a hero?  What if seemingly mundane necessities like scheduling were made easy and fun for the patient?  What if the doctor’s website, business cards, etc. really told us about the doctor themselves, including what they AREN’T good at?  What if the patient’s got to actually mingle with the staff, the doctors and EACH OTHER?  What if the patient not only had the doctor’s personal email, but also their CELL PHONE number?!!  What if questions were actually encouraged?  What if the doctor were able to do an orientation for each patient at the start of care to tell them how to get the most out of what they were doing?  What if they were invited to their doctor’s home the meet one another’s family and break bread together?  How different would all of this look?  What kind of outcomes would the patient get then?

A hero is a celebrity.  The spotlight is on them and things run on their schedule.

A guide is a servant.  A guide studies the patient and the problem to figure out how to best help and then lovingly communicates that to the patient.  The spotlight is on the patient and their time is valuable.

Don’t be a hero.  Be a guide.  It’s what people are looking for, and besides, its way more fun.

About the Author

Hannah Nelson

As founder of ChiroCulture, Hannah's goal is to empower and inspire chiropractors to make the difference they always dreamed of and help them create a better and healthier world.