Apr 7, 2009

the joys of anonymity

One of the aspects of being a patient that many take for granted is their relative anonymity.

In many Canadian provinces, we work in a health "system", which means that in any one geographic area (around 1 million pop) all of the hospitals, long-term care facilities, health service providers, mental health & often public health services are part of the same organization. One organization I worked for had over 20,000 employees.

For patients, this can mean more integrated care, consistent policies & electronic record sharing - kind of like a restaurant chain - you know what you are getting, no matter where you access service.

The downside I have learned happens when you (as a professional) become a patient in your system. Having worked with the vast majority of department directors, managers, vice-presidents, medical officers of health, and specialist physicians, I don't can't just "blend in", I am not invisible.

No matter which site I go to for care, there is a good chance that I am going to run into a colleague. The thought of having to explain my miscarriage, depression, overall illness, resignation and entry in to the PhD program is more than I want to get into with most people. To be candid, I feel like I failed, in that I could no longer keep up with my work demands during the worst of my illness.

Next week I am going to be seeing a specialist in a city about two hours from my home. It's going to be nice to be where nobody knows my name.


  1. Penelope,that certainly is a bummer. That you have to go out of your way to avoid the possibility of meeting up with someone you know in order to get yourself well. Are you heading for NY for this? I do hope you find the peace of mind dear one. Thank you for sharing!

  2. This is similar to what I experience living in a small rural community. There is very little anonymity and it's really annoying at times. I only hope that others are discreet about their participation in therapy groups.

  3. I feel for you with this. I live in a large city where there is very little chance of running into someone I know in a doctor's office or therapy group and we have very strict patient privacy laws here in the U.S. Anonymity is great, especially so one can get a fresh start if he/she feels like treatment with current physician or therapist has gone stale or isn't meeting needs.

  4. Can you blow them off with a one-line, "I've been ill and things have been hard?" If you know them well, I'm guessing no, but it could be worth a try.

    You are NOT a failure. You will get better and you WILL move on. It just sucks now. One day you will look back and think, I can't believe I was there then, and look at where I am now.

  5. Isn't it a total drag when you feel like you need to explain yourself when you know full well you don't?

    "My Lamictal isn't for seizures, okay?"

  6. Oh god, this is so bad...I hate it, now I got offered a job in a health system and am afraid to take it because one of my shrinks worked there.

    And Elizabeth: I was at the pharmacy for Lamictal and she said, "What do you take this for, epilepsy?" and I had this split second moment trying to decide which was worse to say, let her run with epilepsy, or bust out the...yeah.