Why Write a Book & Other Burning Questions
Updated: Jul 7
It’s been a whole month or so since the debut of my author website, DrJillMurphy.com, so with that introduction, comes a host of popular questions about me, my practice in the medical field for almost 20 years, and the odd intersect of being both a patient and a Doctor of Physical Therapy. So here are some answers to the first set of burning FAQs.
Why did you write a book about your healthcare experiences?
Part of my job duties as a licensed healthcare professional is one that is never talked about publicly, but it’s to keep other healthcare professionals honest, to keep them in check. I’m not sure a patient in my shoes would even recognize the poor care, the errors in the medical record, the inattentiveness or unwarranted delays in emergency situations, being dumped as a patient both formally and informally, refusal to modify a plan of care that wasn’t working, the lack of appropriate tests ordered, etc. As a healthcare provider, I know what good care is and what should rightfully happen at any given consult. I know what communication is considered standard of care, and what should happen when a complication, like surgical infection or mal-union occurs. I realize that I have insider knowledge that other patients who are not in healthcare don’t have.
After experiencing a bad care encounter, my first steps were to contact each individual hospital or provider when errors occurred to correct them. However, usually these steps never even got the information to the provider who made the error. Or, there simply was no action a patient could take to rectify the situation to make sure it doesn’t happen again to the very next unwitting patient. After all, if no one dies, there is never a lawsuit. And as someone who worked in hospital systems for ten years, it typically takes an extraordinarily adverse patient event and nearly always a lawsuit for a doctor to acknowledge it and/or for system change to occur. And even then, I still wouldn’t expect an apology.
And then the bad experiences happened again, and again, and again, and well, you get the idea. Honestly all were a variety of negative experiences, with no one negative consult or hospitalization going down quite like another (although gaslighting reared its ugly head with frightening regularity). It was somewhat fascinating and enlightening, despite the unpleasantness, as to how many different ways healthcare can go wrong. Writing a book filled with stories contrasting excellent, patient-centered care with care that was not is instructive for healthcare professionals on how to improve patient care and for patients to better recognize a poor treatment, and what they can do about it. Life would be so beautiful if all healthcare professionals cared enough to about the patient care experience to change their way of interacting with patients in every setting- in-patient, out-patient, emergency, and in every department. Delivering patient-centered care is the only way to effectively meet patients' needs and has been proven in research to improve patient outcomes. We can do better!
On your website you mention that you have always been passionate about providing patient-centered care as a physical therapist. How so?
As a young healthcare professional still quite wet behind the ears, I dove into my first position as physical therapist and licensed athletic trainer head-first, always looking to learn, improve, and grow. One such opportunity came as I studied the posted Press-Ganey results for our out-patient, sports medicine physical therapy department. Our results were always quite good, as I worked with a fantastic team. But I always looked at the one or two items where we scored even a tiny bit less than perfect for anything at all I could improve on. The one that caught my eye was respect for patients. What did that mean? It bothered me, even confused me. While I thought I was delivering care that demonstrated the respect that I had for each patient, I had no idea if I was being successful in my approach. How do I show respect to my patients, and what are patients looking for to feel respected? I wanted a more concrete breakdown of what I could do better (not that it was even my patient providing the feedback on the survey), so patients would feel 100% respected by everything I did and said. I asked around, including my supervisors. No one could tell me. So I began and completed an informal yet elaborate research study in my clinic to find the answers. The results were quite the Ah-ha moment, as my interviews with colleagues and surveys with patients showed that we as healthcare professionals really couldn't identify what respect means to patients, even though our sports medicine group was successful in making patients feel respected. I presented the results to my colleagues at our sports medicine clinic, and then introduced the topic to professional healthcare organizations for over a decade now in a presentation entitled, “What Patients Want” and “What Athletes Want.”
You’ve posted a lot of stories already in your blog, on your Facebook page, and on Twitter. How does one patient rack up so many bad healthcare experiences?
Looking back, I’ve traversed a 7-year rather continuous journey as a patient in mainly four different areas of healthcare, but also included primary care, cardiology, neurology, emergency medicine, acute care medicine, radiology, plastic surgery, infectious medicine, and cardiothoracic surgery. There could be more, but oh well, you get the idea. Because my heart arrhythmia is the one EP cardiologists are taught in training to avoid taking on, it took 2 years and multiple physicians to even get a diagnosis. Then when I had the mild stroke it took 5 years for a neurologist to admit what it was, because the imaging didn’t show it, so neurologists simply didn’t believe it. In between, pursuing a heart ablation procedure unpopular with physicians, then scoring a complication of constrictive pericarditis which is very elusive to diagnose, let’s just say physicians were not lining up to take my case at any point. Oh, and then the sternum non-union and infection that my treating surgeon refused to acknowledge. Try convincing another cardiothoracic surgeon to clean up the last surgeon’s disaster. But even so, I’m granting no excuses to the physicians at the top academic medical centers in the Midwest who starred in some very ugly healthcare experiences. And a gigantic thank you to the heroic physicians from all over the US who rescued this damsel in distress and put me back together again to allow me to successfully return to treating my own patients!
How did you manage to keep your own physical therapy clinic open through the seven years of medical issues? Did you close for a while?
This is the best question that I'm still trying to figure out! I have no idea. God has a way of working miracles, I guess. It helps to have the most loyal and understanding patients in the world! For about one third of that time, I had no other physical therapists seeing patients at the clinic. A few times I had a fill-in physical therapist, but typically I had very gracious patients who re-scheduled if I could not come in (although I tried to keep those instances very few and far between), and I would schedule any procedures during months that were less busy when possible to delay the procedure without any harm. I pushed through a lot, especially after two back surgeries and after the stroke. I would come home so exhausted that walking the stairs up to my room felt like a hike up Everest! (In fact, I crawled up those stairs a handful of times.) My left side would be so sore from the intense muscle spasms I would come home in tears. Or I would be too exhausted to even eat or talk to my family. In the two weeks prior to the three month medical leave before my last surgery, I wore my portable oxygen while treating in the clinic, so I could avoid the hypoxic headaches and not feel as exhausted throughout the day from the advanced heart failure. But a big part of the answer is the wonderful staff I have had working as office managers, at the front desk, scheduling patients, billing, and the PT colleagues at my clinic for the past 6 years who worked as many hours as necessary to meet the needs of our MotionWorks patients. To them I am forever grateful!
I hope that answers the most frequent questions I am asked when peeps find out that I've written a book. If you have more questions for Dr. Jill Murphy for the next FAQs blog post, feel free to submit them to Jill@drjillmurphy.com or message your question on the Dr. Jill Murphy Author Facebook Page, and don't forget I'm on Twitter too @MotionWorksPT.
Jill Murphy is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and founder of MotionWorks Physical Therapy and an advocate for patient-centered care. A Christian wife and mother of three, she survived a seven year journey through the broken American healthcare system in search for an answer to a heart arrhythmia that appeared during pregnancy. A stroke, open heart surgery for constrictive pericarditis, and several other surgeries later, Jill is telling her story of unfailing resilience in her upcoming book, Doctor Heal Thyself. Having grown up on a dairy farm 40 minutes from Lambeau Field, Jill is an avid Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers fan, and is up for any outdoor activity with her husband Tim and three children, including walking, biking, throwing the football around, hiking in scenic locales, gardening, and coaching a middle school basketball game or two.