My Doctor Stuck His Boot in His Mouth

Dr. Burnette and Erika join us today to discuss the power dynamics between doctors and patients and why some people are often surprised when conflicts arise between doctors and patients. We discuss the letter Erika sent to Green Bay Oncology that expressed deep concerns about a comment Dr. Burnette made during one of her appointments, how we addressed her concerns, and how we perceived it as an opportunity to learn and improve our patient care. We discuss why some patients avoid expressing their negative thoughts and feelings about their care to their doctors or advanced practitioners and what Erika would like more oncology doctors to remember when speaking with their patients. They also share their advice to patients who may be frustrated with their doctor’s bedside manner, why doctors should lean on the other care team members to ensure top-quality care, and how their doctor-patient relationship has evolved after this experience.

After graduating at the top of his class from Michigan State, Dr. Brian Burnette completed his internship, residency, and fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology, and Hematology. Currently, He works at Green Bay Oncology, treating all types of cancer and adult blood disorders, with a special interest in lymphoid malignancies – particularly myeloma and lymphoma. He has published multiple full-length, peer-reviewed articles and lectures on various cancer-related topics. When Dr. Burnette isn’t helping patients or conducting seminars, he enjoys hunting, fishing, sailing, and playing baseball as well as spending time with his wife and their two children.

Erika Balza is a retired paralegal and currently owns a bookkeeping, payroll, consulting, and HR advisory business. She is also the co-owner of REB Electric alongside her husband, Rob. In 2015, Erika was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. For the last 5 years, Erika’s cancer has been in remission, showing no signs of active disease. She regularly teaches a class with Dr. Brian Burnette on “Breaking Bad News to Patients” to medical students. Erika enjoys spending time with her husband, children, grandchildren, and six cats when she’s not working or teaching.

“Listen and focus on the patient.”
– Erika Balza

This week on Cancer Covered:

  • Conflicts between doctors and patients
  • Erika’s letter to the Green Bay Oncology Cancer Center
  • Mediating conflicts between doctors and patients
  • Why doctors should pay attention to the words and phrases they use with their patients
  • Why Dr. Burnette told Erika to “toughen up and go home” and what he really meant
  • Why do patients often not express their concerns and negative thoughts to their doctor
  • What Erika wants oncology doctors to remember while talking with patients
  • Their advice to cancer patients that are frustrated about their doctor’s care and bedside manner
  • When to consider switching providers
  • Why doctors should leverage the other members of the patient care team to ensure optimal care
  • What inspired the idea to start the “Breaking Bad News to Patients” seminar to medical students
  • What Dr. Burnette’s and Erika’s doctor-patient relationship is like today

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