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The Nancy Snyderman Interview (Page 1 of 3)

Nancy Snyderman Interview

The Nancy Snyderman Interview

Nancy l. Snyderman, MD, has been the chief medical editor for NBC News since 2006 and frequently appears on NBC’s Today and MSNBC to discuss medicine-related issues. Dr. Snyderman is also on the staff of the otolaryngology-head and neck surgery department at the University of Pennsylvania, located in Philadelphia. 

Author of five books, Dr. Nancy Snyderman’s Guide to Good Health: What Every Forty-Plus Woman Should Know About Her Changing Body, Necessary Journeys: Letting Ourselves Learn From Life, Girl in the Mirror: Mothers and Daughters in the Years of Adolescence, Medical Myths That Can Kill You: And the 101 Truths That Will Save, Extend, and Improve Your Life and Diet Myths That Keep Us Fat:  And the 101 Truths That Will Save Your Waistline – And Maybe Even Your Life, she also writes a monthly column for Good Housekeeping magazine.

As well as a noted medical journalist and physician, Dr. Snyderman is also a loving family caregiver. She sat down with Gary Barg, Editor-In-Chief, for a wide-ranging and personal conversation about the best ways to care for yourself as you care for your loved ones while maintaining the best possible doctor/caregiver relationships.

Gary Barg: In Medical Myths that Can Kill You, you write that “one of the goals of the book is to help us learn how to demand respect and appropriate treatment from the healthcare system that is not always fair.” I have got to tell you this sounds like great advice for family caregivers as well. What do you advise family caregivers when dealing with the healthcare system?

Nancy Snyderman: I think this is particularly true for women. The good manners that our mothers taught us that help us in social situations and open up doors and allow you to have a lovely conversation at a dinner party— those same manners do not serve you well when you are advocating for someone who needs help. I have witnessed it firsthand. I have been that pit bull. I have relied on people to be that pit bull for me. But the reality is the system is complex. It is intimidating. It is labyrinthine. And whether you are the caregiver or the person who is being cared for, it is just downright complicated.

Gary Barg: One of the great myths that I find about family caregiving is the one that when we believe if we stand up for our loved one’s rights, then somehow the people caring for them will not care for them as well because they will not like us as much.

Nancy Snyderman: I know the medical system about as well as anybody. I have been a practicing surgeon for 30 years. And just last fall my father became very ill. And frankly, nobody was moving fast enough to suit me in my local hospital. I was obnoxious. I went out and stood at the nurses’ station. I took a phone out of a nurse’s hand so I could talk to the doctor who was trying to avoid me. And I was every doctor’s and nurse’s nightmare. And you know what? They saved my dad’s life. But I knew we were within hours and I did not have time for niceties. I needed things to get going. I do not care if a nurse does not like me after I am long gone. I do not care if a doctor says, “Perhaps we are not a good fit.” All I know is that I have an obligation to those I need to protect. Most of the time, the system is great. But when it is not, even if you are not a courageous person, you have to summon all the courage you have and speak up because caregiving is not a role for the timid. And that is one of the things, frankly, that makes it so damned exhausting.

Gary Barg: Yeah. It is exhausting. It is what we call being the CEO of Caring for My Loved One, Inc.

Nancy Snyderman: Let us be really brutal. To me, caregiving is about quality of life as much as it is about length of life. And it is about letting the person who is being cared for have a piece of the decision-making when possible. Life with dignity and death with dignity are two things that we do not talk enough about.  

Gary Barg: You are in a unique position as a caregiver-doctor to advise us on how to deal with the doctor-caregiver partnership/relationship. What do we need to do as caregivers when we want to partner with our doctor?

 

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