I’m terrified of hospitals. I know I shouldn’t be and that I should trust the professionals. But I get so scared whenever I’m involved in any kind of medical thing–even doctor’s visits, actually. It’s becoming a real problem in my life, because I’ve been avoiding going to doctor’s appointments and haven’t gone to see anyone even when I’ve been sick. But I’m just convinced that it’s always risky to put your health in someone’s hands–doctors must make mistakes, just like everyone else, and a mistake by a doctor could kill me. What should I do? How can I get over this feeling?
Doctors do indeed make mistakes, just like everyone else–but they’re far from the only people looking out for your welfare every time you step foot in a hospital. Hospitals are full of people with various degrees of expert training, each tasked with checking and double-checking the most important things related to your experience. There are nurses, of course–and the educators at Linfield College, home to a great RN to BSN program, say the most important roles go to highly trained, educated, and experienced nurses. There are also physician’s assistants, technicians of all kinds, and secretaries and others who make sure that everything from your treatment to your paperwork is in proper order. Even your treatment itself is subject to checking and double-checking: the pros at Global Regulatory Partners, a pharmaceutical product consulting firm, say that the life-saving medications doctors prescribe have already met the high regulatory standards of the FDA. On top of that, their safety in your particular case will be double-checked against your allergies by doctors and nurses.
In short, the details of your hospital experience are rarely in the hands of just one person, and while mistakes can happen (and while some other Western countries have better statistics), the fact is that studies show that American healthcare is very safe.
Your fear is clearly not founded in the reality of the situation. And while we’ve shown you the truth of the matter, it’s also possible that your fear is not founded in logic, either. Some people have an irrational fear of hospitals, and that’s not necessarily something you’re going to be able to reason your way through (only a mental health professional can tell you if your fear is clinical).
You should consider seeing a mental health professional. This doesn’t have to mean a doctor: there are plenty of psychologists, therapists, and counselors who may be able to help you who do not have medical degrees (and who do not work in doctor’s offices). Your school has resources to help you with your mental health, so take advantage of them and work with a professional. You may find that this helps you more than any facts about the realities of healthcare ever could.
“There is no real bravery in getting paid to save someone’s life. However, there is a large amount of bravery in a nurse breakdancing at the hospital’s Christmas party.” — Shannon L. Alder