Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Want To Remember

Am currently nearing the end of my elective, with only another 2 days to go. I have been 'fortunate' to see a lot of interesting signs here - it is especially exciting when it matches what you have been reading in books - almost like meeting an old friend you once knew.

But I keep reminding myself, all these signs (usually) come at an expense to patients. I think it's important as healthcare workers to at least once in a while slip into your patients' shoes, reminding oneself that what might be routine and mundane to you is actually scary and a wholly new experience to your patient. 

When you start thinking of your patient as a real person instead of a disease waiting to be treated, then perhaps, you would be a little kinder at that difficult patient who seemed hell bent on making your life a living hell. Stop back and think, why is the patient acting this way? Is there some misunderstanding? Is there something bothering the patient? Or is there something you can help the patient with? Perhaps you might find your answer lies within those questions.

In med school, we are often taught to be 'professional', so as to provide the best (unemotional) care for our patients. It is a very real thing to get burnout from all the painful horrible things you see happening to people by being overly empathetic. But medicine is not only a science, it's also an art. And if you ask me, it's the latter that's hard to imitate. It has to come from the heart.

When does being 'professional' means being less human? I think it's still important to engage emotionally with your patient, coz with a good doctor that really cares for them, it is said patients feel almost half-healed after the encounter. However, as with all things, empathy should be doled out in moderation as well. A healthy work-life balance is essential to keep the enthusiasm for life going.

Two and a half years back, I remember what I wrote in the little box provided for each person in our batch magazine. I want to remember the reason I'm doing medicine even many years down the line. Now two and a half years later, I'm glad to say that I still remember.

Let's hope I would be able to sustain these thoughts for a long time more.


k0k s3n w4i said...

if you want to see the therapeutic effect the mere incident of encountering a doctor has on people, look no further than the positive anecdotes of people who sought useless alternative medicine treatments like homeopathy, acupuncture and reiki.

One of the strongest criticisms of how medicine is practiced today is that we are no longer spending enough time listening to individual patients, allowing quacks to fill in the cracks.

Zzzyun said...

your last paragraph is so true. but i think its a combination of being overworked and the continuous preaching of being 'professional'.

hopefully we can overcome this and be the best doctors that we can. just by listening.