During the consultation and preop visit, I always go over the surgery we’ll be performing, the risks and benefits, the process on the day of surgery and reasonable expectations as far as results and the recovery process. It’s a lot of information and it’s a very new experience for many patients. For that reason, some of what I’ve said is forgotten.
Additionally and not unexpectedly, after surgery, they have pain. While I reassure them that the pain will decrease over the coming days and I provide pain medication, I know they sometimes doubt if the pain will ever go away. As a doctor, I’ve taken care of many patients in the same boat so I know it will get better. However, that experience doesn’t always make the patient a believer in my predictions.
But a friend that’s had the same procedure, they trust unequivocally! This is great for the doctor when the friend is reasonable and had a reasonable experience. For example, the patient I mentioned above, their friend had the same procedure and had a very similar course as my patient. So when my patient was in pain, I reassured them that it would get better with little intended effect. When the friend said the same thing, you could see calm come over the patient’s face!
Understandably, when the doctor tells the patient everything will be fine, it’s hard for the patient to accept because even though the surgeon has done the procedure before, they’ve never had the procedure. There’s much greater credibility from the friend that has had the procedure. This is typically very helpful for the patient and surgeon unless the friend is melodramatic and doesn’t offer a reassuring voice. As they say in marriage, you can pick the spouse but not the family. Similarly in cosmetic surgery, you can pick the patient, but you can’t pick their friends!