Aug 7, 2009

Why Are Doctors Such Jerks?

Let's start with a question I know that you have been wanting to ask:
Why are so many doctors jerks?
Excellent question! As any nurse will tell you, doctors are notoriously difficult to work with. We doctors have a much higher percentage of jerks among us than the general population. Even Doctor D (on very rare occasions) has been known to be downright ornery towards patients. There is a epidemic of condescending, difficult, foul-tempered doctors, and you the patient are the one who suffers!

Some doctors have been jerks their whole lives. Maybe they weren't hugged enough as babies. These docs just love having a position of power so they can make others feel small. Such natural-born jerks can be found in any profession, and just one of them (especially as a customer service representative) can make anyone's day miserable. Such doctors will never change. It is best to avoid them whenever possible (unless you need surgery).

But the relatively few natural-born jerks in the world just aren't enough to explain the over-abundance of jerk doctors. This only leaves one explanation: many doctors become jerks by becoming doctors.

The number one reason everyone says they want to go to medical school is "to help people." Believe it or not, we were all once innocent wide-eyed young medical students who really cared about you.

Then they fed us through the decade long meat-grinder of training involving sleep deprivation, endless memorization, calling patients by their diseases, and getting yelled at regularly by our jerk-doctor teachers. At first we hated those other jerk-doctors, then we felt sorry for them. We worked till we were dead tired, and then got told heathcare is cutting back so we had to do the same work twice as fast next time. Patients expect us to work miracles after watching too much TV, and don't see any reason for dieting or quitting smoking since our purpose in life is to cure everything. Despite our good intentions people keep destroying themselves with bad habits, and nice people keep dying, and everyone is angry we can't turn them back into twenty-year-olds. Add to that lawyers promising irritated patients that they can hit the jackpot, if they just sue jerk doctors--It is enough to turn even the nicest medical students into misanthropic bastards.

As a patient that just wants to get your check-up none of this is your fault, but you are going to bear the brunt of this. Your best bet is to look at your doctor, and try to imagine him/her as the kindly, altruistic, and terrified student that showed up on that first day of medical school. Somewhere in your doctor lurks that annoying humanitarian impulse that doesn't die easy.

Look your doctor straight in the eye and say, "Doc, I really appreciate you taking care of me." Only say this and nothing else! Under no circumstances then ask for something or launch into a list of every odd symptom you had in the last year. Just say something nice and leave. A jerk-doctor hasn't seen human kindness and generosity in years might just feel a warm spark of caring in his/her cold heart. Doctors have a bad habit of forgetting we work on real people. Suddenly you become a real person and not just a patient. Trust me, doctors actually care about real people. You just have to remind your doctor that real people exist.

Who knows, your doctor might even be nice to the nurses after seeing you?

48 comments:

Magda said...

I have a real person for my primary doctor, he even takes time to educate, draws me diagrams, and treats me like I understand! I am very worried, however, because he's getting older now, and he may retire soon, and then what will I do? How will I find another like him?

sunny said...

My co-worker and were talking about this very topic today! My co-worker wonders if med school implicitly requires med students who already have a "GOD complex". I think even if that's not the case, the training is so brutal, med students become arrogant jerks just as a self-survival mechanism. Although, I work with a medical doctor who is the gentlest and most gracious person I know, so I have no idea how he kept his humanity. It’s definitely a tough field and I salute all y’all doctors who care for your patients day in and day out.

NetwriterM said...

I have been known to bring gifts partly because I'm just so damn grateful to work with a physician who has managed to avoid becoming a jerk.

M

Anonymous said...

I think many of them think they are amazing for having survived medical school and residency and think that everyone should acknowledge them for it. I think most of them unfortunately see their peers as constant competition and therefore see all of life as one major heirarchy, and they rank themselves at the top. Many physicians are nice, but walk into any hospital (especially a teaching hospital), and you'll see tons of pompous acting physicians who are convinced that people should stop and bow for them as they walk down the hallway.

Anonymous said...

Most doctors are egotistic without just cause. They became doctors to feel better about themselves, which is why they are such a dangerous profession. Anyone who spends so much time trying to become someone who controls the fate of others is a danger to society. If they didn't gain the 'doctor' title and were called 'advisors'- (which is what they really are but the public just don't have the confidence to enforce this yet) then i doubt they would even study in the first place. Why is it that we have to wait for symptoms before we can have a scan? Because the doctors refuse to allow us to have a scan without them. Why? Because they have the power to. By the time we have symptoms it sometimes can already be too late. Why are we allowing so called 'doctors' to dictate our fate? I say they have more than out stayed their welcome and it's time we had a healthcare which was patient led and that doctors were a part of history. N.S;

Anonymous said...

As a medical student, I can tell you that the majority of us actually DO want to be caring, normal doctors. But, along the way, we start working with doctors who apparently have this "God" complex, and they seem to expect us to treat patients the same way they do. Trust me, I was just with a physician the other day who seemed to find fault and complain about every one of his patients, and that really bothered me but I couldn't say anything because, after all, he's the teacher and I'm just the lowly student. And the worst thing is that he is grading me, so if I don't treat my patients in the same way he does, then I suffer for it!

More medical schools, though, are trying to admit students for reasons other than entrance exam scores and college grades-- they're looking more for students who have done something with their lives instead of just studied. Hopefully this will one day result in many more compassionate physicians, but this won't guarantee that there will not be those jerks out there. In fact, in my class, I could probably name at least ten people that I can almost guarantee will be absolute jerks to their patients.

Fortunately, there are people like Doctor D out there who feel that it is important that your questions get answered. Hopefully, once I've gone through the gauntlet called medical school, I'll still have my desire to help people, much like Doctor D does.

Anonymous said...

What are the magic words for short circuiting an intimidating doctor I have to work with? I'm healthcare IT (a lowly helpdesk person) and frequently deal with frustrated docs/healthcare providers. Any advise on ways to deal with the few bullies in the lot who are always demeaning, sarcastic and combative?

Anonymous said...

I work in IT sales and *everyone* I work with, *everyone* I encounter in my company, my prospects' companies, and my partners' companies is being asked to do more, faster. . . damn the torpedoes. Yet I encounter vastly fewer jerks in all of the corporate realm than I do in one trip to my primary physician's office. So it isn't just being asked to perform the work of five people in the hours and talent alloted for one that creates so many jerk doctors. That dynamic exists everywhere right now.

What I don't understand is the primary physician who feels the need to spell out the word "m-i-g-r-a-i-n-e" for me, and who dismisses me when I tell him I subscribe to several medical journals by saying, "Don't bother looking anything up. It won't make sense to you." (!) From my perspective, it looks like he is terrified of not being the only Keeper of The Knowledge, and is afraid he might be found out to not know nearly as much as he'd like others to believe. That was my first - and last - visit to him, ever. A doctor who dismisses my intelligence and desire to be a part of my own friggin' health care is a kook that doesn't deserve my - or my insurance company's - money. He also deserves for me to tell my entire social network (love new terminology for old ideas) what a kook he is and to avoid him like the Plague.

I am ever so grateful for organizations like Angie's List, which now accepts reports on doctors and other healthcare providers. I can now warn tens of thousands of people in my area about idiot doctors like him. (I can also let those same tens of thousands know about the doctors in the area I think are awesome!)

Jack Silver said...

I respectfully disagree with this article. As a medical practice management consultant for the past 35 years, I have worked with thousands of physicians. I have reached one conclusion for the reason some physicians are jerks. The answer is: POWER CORRUPTS. The shortage and high demand for physicians most has resulted hospitals, patients and employees of those physicians to give a free pass to the jerk, even for illegal conduct. If it was not for the license to practice medicine most of the physicians who are jerks would be unemployable in any other field. The power of license to practice medicine given to physicians somehow translate to some that they're untouchable so if you don't like them then it is too bad. That is the attitude of most physicians who can be described as jerks. I don't think healthcare policy or long hours of work would or should be a justification for being a jerk. There are many other professions where people work very hard and long hours and get far less than any physician, but don’t act like jerks. Because others who act like jerks do get punished by getting fired and then easily replaced. You can’t just fire a physician and expect to replace him/her easily. So you’ve got to put up with the jerks. Having said the above, one should take notice that being a jerk does not necessarily affect the physician’s ability to provide quality care. In fact, I have known physicians famous for their medical skills, who have terrible personalities.

Anonymous said...

There is no excuse for a jerk doctor. I am a teacher, and have dealt with the same garbage over the last 25 yrs you listed above and I do not treat my students the way doctors treat patience. I am not allowed to do so. The problems is our society has allowed doctors to have a GOD complex and treat people poorly. Add to that our insurances demand we only go to docs in a network and now you have a system where treating the patient poorly is not only tolerated but encouraged.

Go to the internet and review the doc...good and bad. Call your insurance company and complain when they do a bad job. Take another person with you when you get treated so both of you ask questions that need answering. Challenge your doc to support his/her diagnosis...go to another doc when yours is a jerk...don't put up with jerks...

Anonymous said...

So, after 5 months and countless doctors and different emergency hospital visits, a terrible reputation among the doctors at those hospitals as some nut who is considered a "narcotic seeker," a doctor at Davis Hospital, with a simple test has given me a diagnoisis of C-Dff.

http://www.cdiffsupport.com/aboutcdiff.html

It;s pretty disgusting, but very treatable and the doctor tonight said those who did not perform this simple test did not follow protocol for a patient who "shows" with severe admoninal pain and the other nasty symptoms.

Hate to admit it, but I feel like going back to every hospital and doctor who has given me crap (no pun intended) over the last 5 months and give them a large piece of my mind. But I won't But I will get better!!!

Anonymous said...

Add to the mix government regulations that make the doctors paranoid about "drug seeking behavior", corrupt hospitals that hide malpractice, and we have a nightmare. No prescription, no payment. That should be the policy. They don't like it? Punch them in the nose.

Anonymous said...

Found this column after a visit with a complete jerk of a doctor. I am a veterinarian and I would never dream to treat my clients (nor my patients) with the arrogance exhibited by physicians. I've had it with MD's; I'm treating myself from now on and not giving any more of my insurance money to the human medical profession unless its a dire emergency.

Anonymous said...

I have a brother who is a year younger than me, and growing up we were so close, and he was the sweetest, kindest, most laid back guy. He would do ANYTHING for me, or anyone for that matter, and all of my girlfriends just loved him and he used to hang out with us, he was such a sweet guy! Now, he is an MD, a specialist, never mind what kind, and he is the nastiest, most arrogant, hateful ego-driven A hole I have ever met. He wont even speak to me anymore, he is TOO GOOD! In his case he is a surgeon, and usually his young patients have positive outcomes, and I think he has been told SO many times "you saved my baby's life!" and things like that that it has gone to his head. My favorite joke: What is the difference between God and a doctor? God doesn't think he is a doctor! Hahahahaha!

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree. After working in academia (a state med school) I found that many med school students are jerks already when they enter the program. In my experience about half of these students are obnoxious punks who are honestly not as bright as you would hope.

Anonymous said...

...And the thought came to me, surprising in its fluency and confidence, fully formed, fully settled: How I hate doctors. Any doctors. All doctors. Consider the Jewish joke, the old lady running distractedly along the seashore: "Help! My son the doctor is drowning." Amusing, I suppose. Her pride, I suppose is amusing: it is greater than her love. But why the pride in these "doctor" children (why not shame, why not incredulous dread?): intimates of bacilli and trichinae, of trauma and mortification, with their disgusting vocabulary and their disgusting furniture (the bloodstained rubber bib, hanging on its hook). They are life's gatekeepers. And why would anyone want to be that? - From Time's Arrow, by Martin Amis

Anonymous said...

I am currently dealing with a major asshole of doctor who misdiagnosed me with anxiety with 40 seconds of seeing me. Any attempt to explain my presence in the ER was due to having an adverse reaction to a medication fell on deaf ears.

I tried to present my documents showing him I was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition that causes me a severe chemical sensitivity t many medications yet he refused to acknowledge any specialists report and isnisted his own superficial 40 second opinion of me prevailed above all extensive tests and diagnosisy specialists. He then had the nerve to send my family doctor a report claiming I suffered from anxiety. He reached this conclusion without even a single examination and all the whilst maintaining a 3 metre distance from me at the foot of the bed I was in.

Now I am going to unleash my fury onto him by reporting him to the hospital complaints department, followed by the hospital board of directors, then the medical practioners board of my locals tate, then the media and then take legal action. I have already found his email adress and I intend on telling him what I have in store for an asshole jerkoff like him. Wish me luck.

apatient said...

I am a nurse and have neck and shoulder injuries sustained while caring for patients. I have spent many years dealing with difficult, egotistical physicians, and have had a total of 7 surgeries. My work comp insurance sent me to a new (new to me) doctor. After 6 weeks of hell, including the doctor not forwarding his notes and diagnosis to the primary, not sending info to the physical therapist, his office making appointments for me then canceling them stating they did not have "authorization" twice, the medial assistant screaming at me on the phone "why didn't I call for an appointment a month ago" - she made the appointment and gave me the slip with the appointment written on it - and said she would call me with the time, an incredible lack of compassion and a total fixation on "authorization" - which they had the entire time, I am done with them. My research showed that this practice had nothing going for them except size and they have been in business for a long time. No teaching affiliations, no work with veterans, no published work, not even on "top 100 doctors list" in my large city, which is doctors voting for themselves. I have been to many doctors and specialists over the years and have been described as "delightful", "pleasant", "incredibly patient", and "very appropriate in questions and behavior". But this practice accused me of being "abusive to the staff" (I told the medical assistant not to scream at me, and left 2 messages requesting appointment times). So, I know that I have encountered an egotistical, greedy, and lazy physician and his practice. Enough said. 2 days later I have been accepted by a physician practice that is known worldwide, they teach, have fellowships, volunteer in the community, and each doctor in the practice is a published expert. So yes, from someone whom has worked with the difficult physicians, been seen and treated by busy and difficult physicians, they are no different than anyone else, one bad apple doesn't spoil the whole barrel. Just move on and find a good doc. I wish everyone would do as I have done, as my grandmother used to say - "get them where it hurts the most - in the pocketbook". Take your business elsewhere. You are the patient and the customer.

Anonymous said...

I work in medical ethics and I can tell you that it's worse then I ever could have imagined. I'm going to quit my job soon. Its like finding out that superman is a rapist. I will never trust another doctor as far as I can slap them.

slkgreen said...

Dr's are jerks! When I was 16 I was really sick... eating made me vomit! I would eat and throw up and was losing weight rapidly - I was sooo hungry. One dr told my mother I was bullimic - I was gorging and then throwing up on purpose! Another told my mother it was psychological and I was trying to get attention. My mother told them they were idiots and started monitoring my diet and discovered that I was worse when I had milk so she put me on a dairy free diet - within a couple of weeks the vomiting had stopped - but no-one realised that when I stopped the dairy I also stopped cereals and I already didn't like sandwiches or pasta etc. Over the years off and on I would have days where I felt constantly nauseous and I would conclude that somehow I had been having dairy and I would be even more strict with what I ate. Years down the track I decided to start a more healthy lifestyle and that included wholegrain salad rolls for lunch. After a few weeks the nausea (and occasionally vomiting) was so constant - waves of such nausea that I would almost pass out - add to that I was getting depressed for no apparent reason - I would burst into tears for no reason. After 3 months & 5 jerk dr's that told me it was a virus and I would get over it - I turned to the internet. I went to another dr and asked for a Coeliacs test - it took another 3 dr's before I finally got the test done and even then I think he only agreed cause I refused to sign his medicare form unless he ordered the test. Guess what - I was right! 2 years later on I had to go to the dr's for something else and I went to a local dr who I hadn't been to before. When I told him I was Coeliacs he told me that without confirmation he couldn't accept that and wanted me to go back on Gluten for 3 months and then have the test again to confirm! I called him an idiot and left - without signing his medicare form and then reported him! I have had other experiences with other jerk dr's including being treated for a torn hamstring for over 2 months when what I had was L5-S1 dislocation that was compressing my sciatic nerve - the dr just kept increasing my pain medication when I complained the pain was getting worse not better! And people wonder why now I no longer go to dr's! I am sure that somewhere out there are good dr's - I just haven't met any - and I am sick of looking so I told my body if it got sick anymore it was on it's own - get better or else! LOL I stick to my GF diet & I haven't been sick since. Is that mind over matter or have I just been lucky???

Anonymous said...

I work in a hospital as a dietary aide and I can only name about 3 physicians who are openly nice. All the rest just seem like they want to kill everyone that looks at them.

Although, most doctors will become the nicest people if you just talk to them kindly and at eye level. (If you show fear, they will attack. lol) I had an incident like that a few days ago. I have a physician that acts like a jerk. I stopped him in the elevator and said, "Hello, Dr. X! How are you doing today?" He just smiled and talked my ear off.

Granted, he has only been an MD for about three years!!! There is still time to become a heartless robot. lol

Anonymous said...

I'm the husband of a O.R.Manager and I can't count the times she's come home crying because of jerk surgeons. They care only of them self's and I can't stand them.

Anonymous said...

I was an OR nurse for 13 years. I quit OR nursing just 2 weeks ago. I am completely burned out. Not from taking care of my patients and keeping them safe before and during surgery but from dealing with schmuck surgeons and anesthesiologists who don't have the wisdom yet to know what an important part of the "team" nurses are. It took me this long to realize that my energy is not wasted on patient care but on making MD's happy. Despite my best intentions to have a good day at work it is always foiled by some diva doctor with a enormous ego who deep down is insecure with how he/she is attempting to treat their patient. Thank you for letting me vent.

Anonymous said...

My doctor for some reason thinks im a drug addict. Why I dont know because provides me with childrens strength medication for my chronic pain. I have sleep apnea so i should be taking zopicolne. Adult typical dosage is 7.5mg a night. Mine is 5mg that he gives me. I had a terrible car accident and hit a moose head on. Cracked my neck and severely injured my back - chich I consider chronic pain. This at my age of 42 is never going to heal - so I need some steady form of pain managment. He gives me 1 tylonol 3 a day, renewable only every 30 days. And this month he has decided I will no longer be recieving it. After research it says I should be gradually tamed off Tylenol 3s... On top of that, I take 1/2 to one pill of Xanax for anxiety (which I find out people take up to 4mg a day for typical anxiety.

Then he has the nerve to tell me I am an addict and will no longer be recieving these medications. I am fnatically and incredibly pissed off about this. Im not an abuser - Ive followed the prescribed amounts or much less consistantly and responsibly.

What do ya do when faced with the ASSHOLE doctor who will ony treat you with childrens medication and proceed to cut you off - for taking that medication responsibly!?!?! PLEASE SOMEONE TELL ME???

Doctor D said...

I appreciate the responses here and you are free to vent, but any responses that name a specific doctor will not be published.

Holly Gaddis said...

Just wondering if it's normal for a patient to be yelled at by the doctor on call for your primary care physican's office? He yelled at me because I woke him up.

Doctor D said...

That isn't normal.

Anonymous said...

That isn't normal? Really? Because I've encountered it twice.

Anonymous said...

oh... and btw, it was two entirely different doctors and two entirely different situations (years apart), so it's not like I deliberately call them off-hours for no good reason.

mensajes para enamorar cortos said...

I like that doctor!!

anonymous RX said...

Wow!! so hearing all the above stories make me cringe. I am a health professional who deals with physicians on a daily basis. I just returned from a medical mission in which one of the physicians I worked with was a total A hole. I am really looking for answers on how to work with such arrogant professionals. I would like to basically tell him how arrogant he is, and ideally he would change his approach. Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Ok, so wow!! I just returned from a medical mission in which one of the physicans I worked with was a total A hole. I am a health professional with 30 years of experience, and well respected. On our trip, he was difficult to work with. I left feeling frustrated. Any suggestions?

Linda Elliott said...

I agree that most doctors are unhappy and narcisstic!

Linda Elliott said...

I agree that most doctors are unhappy and narcisstic!

Anonymous said...

I have been an RN for years, and for covering up and basically doing physicians' jobs for them so they don't get fucked and thrown under the bus, I'm done with it, especially after having ABSOLUTELY no gratefulness and saving their lives and careers EVERY day. FUCK 99% of you egotistical "think" you know it all fucks and I hope there comes a day in time soon where the world gets to see how sick and twisted you stupid motherfuckers really are.....a good RN knows their shit better than any MD, PERIOD.

Anonymous said...

These comments are mindblowing.

Anonymous said...

I work for a wound clinic and have to deal with physicians from other hopitals and clincs calling (which is unusual because these calls usually are done by the RNs or other office staff) and these people are assholes! Call it God complex, call it what ever you want, absolutely no one has any right to treat another person with snotty, disrespectful and condescending behavior!

Anonymous said...

Drs. are jerks because they can be. Patients need to fight back when drs. are jerks. I have had only 2 good Drs. in my lifetime.(and i've lived a long time).

Anonymous said...

DRS. ARE JERKS BECAUSE PEOPLE ALLOW THEM TO BE. IF MORE PATIENTS ETC. WERE TO SPEAK UP WHEN DRS. ARE BEING JERKS MAYBE THEY WOULD GET THE HINT THAT HIS PEDISTOOL IS NOT AS HIGH AS HE THOUGHT IT WAS.

Anonymous said...

The "God" complex affects many doctors. I know this from experience dealing with some truly ass-oholic medical doctors. Hello doc you're only human, capable of ERROR! Yes, HUMAN ERROR! You've studied long, you've worked damn hard to get your credentials, but that doesn't grant you immunity from making egregious errors on your patients from time to time. My dear mother paid the price with her life due to doctor's errors. I don't want to get into that.

I once was one of those sheep-le who thought what doc said was the final verdict for a diagnosis and treatments. Whoa! That has all changed. Now I'm a mighty skeptic of western medicine. And for a very legitimate reason I am. It would be tremendously ignorant of me to discount western medicine altogether. I respect the doctors who save lives in emergency situations, but it's long term "treatments" of varying ailments that yield to such great skepticism of mine.

I know that there are truly dedicated doctors out there. Finding one is like sifting through sand though. If you're fortunate to have a doctor who actually listens to you, the patient, and doesn't dismiss drug side effects, doesn't get all pissy if you question their diagnosis or medication choices, spends quality time with the patient and doesn't try to sell you on undergoing unnecessary surgeries, has knowledge in nutrition and alternative therapies and has an open mind. If you've got a doctor like that keep him or her for life!

Anonymous said...

I have had pretty good luck with my physicians as a patient. My family practitioner of more than a decade is particularly "human" and a talented doctor and my nurse friends who speak only well of him. But in my professional life I have had way too much experience with the other side of the coin - doctors who seem to specialize in greed, rudeness to patients, unethical behavior bordering on being criminal, abusive behavior to those who work for them directly or as vendors. I'm afraid I have no solutions, only observations. Since I can't fix the bad docs, let me instead thank the ones who manage to remain kind and professional, even on difficult days. You are appreciated by both patients and the medical community!

Anonymous said...

I'm a survivor of domestic violence. I've been judged, blamed, and yelled at by some doctors just before I left and as a survivor with ongoing old injuries. I don't expect sympathy but a little understanding, non judging helps.

Anonymous said...

I'm a nurse, have worked in OR and primary care. Most of the doctors I've worked with have been decent, kind, and the best ones...interested in teaching. But there have been some very "precious" ones. I do not see this much with veterinarians, there generally is less ego, less delusions of grandeur. If forced to work with a doctor who is precious, I prefer a consistent a$$hole. The worst are the ones with mood swings, who vacillate between being informal, funny and charming when they're in the mood, but can turn on a dime if the mood is bad. I don't know if there's a higher degree of personality disorders with doctors (lol) but god, there can be some self entitlement with these types. The funny/ sad part of it is that they can make their own lives so difficult...I recall one of these guys complaining that every time he had to respond to the ER, no RN would help him, all he ever got was an ER Tech. LMAO....

Anonymous said...

Why do interns treat nurses well then turn jnto arrogant pricks once they become registrars?

Anonymous said...

I agree.

Anonymous said...

As a patient who is paying through the nose for insurance which pays my doctor a lot of money, I have lost patience with being treated like a child. I would not allow a plumber, landscaper, decorator, auto mechanic, or other hired help to talk to me with disrespect, and just because a physician has more speciallized knowledge and experience in a field in which I request his advice, he does not have the prerogative to talk to me with disrespect. I treat my clients with the utmost in preferential and respectful courtest, and expect the same from an M.D. whose latest Lexus was partially purchased with my money.

Anonymous said...

I think the specialists have the worst attitude.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, not my job as the patient to provide a feel-good lesson to an arrogant doctor. Arrogance wounds emotionally, especially when you are already ill and vulnerable, and *physician* arrogance kills. Better for *you* (physicians) to police your ranks and weed yourselves of those who don't belong in a caring profession.

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