Wednesday, February 13, 2013

When a Physician is a Patient

Take some time to read this excellent guest post by Kevin R. Campbell, MD on entitled Physicians can be better doctors by being patients:
Physicians are terrible patients. That fact is one of the few absolutes in medicine. I can remember developing an acute appendicitis as a medical student. I remember the fear, the uncertainty and the discomfort. I can remember wanting someone who was in charge to spend a little time in my room explaining things to me. I can remember the embarrassment I felt when a group of 6 student nurses paraded into my room with a senior staff nurse in order to learn how to put in a Foley catheter. As physicians, we are used to being the person in control in the healthcare setting. When the doctor becomes the patient, all perceived control is surrendered....... Once the transition to patient is made, there is no going back. Nothing ever seems the same.
Dr. Campbell goes on to conclude:
Patients deserve our very best. As physicians, we must remember that the people we care for are often lonely, frightened and may feel as if their world is spinning out of control. Becoming a patient can open our eyes to the challenges of the patient condition. We must strive to provide better, more compassionate care to our patients. By wearing a gown, providers may be able to better empathize with patients and ultimately ease the pain of living with disease.
Well said, Dr. Campbell. Well said.

I appreciate Dr. C's excellent observations and applaud his change in perspective. I'm gratified to see him encourage other health care providers to look at their patients with true empathy. This is exactly what is needed in our health care delivery system today. Dr. C's patients are fortunate to have him involved in their care. I can find nothing in Dr. Campbell's post with which I have an issue, but I'd like to add another point to this great topic: This experience isn't unique to physicians. Once ANYONE makes that transition to becoming a patient, there is " going back. Nothing ever seems the same."

None of us enters a hospital as a "patient". Before any of us put on that hospital gown, we're bankers, stay at home parents, lawyers, accountants, RETIRED NURSES, programmers, cashiers, secretaries, waiters, engineers, truck drivers, teachers, cabbies....I could go on forever. Each of us has to make that painful transition from being a person who feels competent and in control, to becoming someone who feels extremely vulnerable.

In addition to feeling empathy for patients as "patients", I also appreciate those physicians that recognize me as the competent person that I am (sometimes.....) when I'm not wearing a hospital gown: someone that is capable of being treated as an equal partner in my health care.

Hospital gown image found here.

1 comment:

ShEiLa said...

Love this post! So very true.