\Understanding each other is a skill most if not many of us could use to spend a little more time practicing. It is far easier to make snap judgments and not give others the benefit of doubt or the energy required to attempt to put ourselves in the other person’s position, or shoes, as the old cliché goes. This applies to both life and healthcare equally. It also applies equally to both providers as well as patients in the healthcare setting.
It is very easy for one or both parties to what should ideally be a partnership between the two to fall into the all too familiar trap of becoming preoccupied with simply making it through the rat race of our workday, or personal life, or potentially even both.
As a provider, it’s easy to think of many things besides the humanity of the patient in front of you. Perhaps you squeezed in some unscheduled patients who had some sort of emergency and you are now way behind schedule and will, therefore, be working several hours past the normal end of your office day. Perhaps you even are dealing with such things as an ill family member, spouse, child, etcetera which is preoccupying your mind. Perhaps you feel pangs of guilt, remorse, or sympathy towards the patient now in front of you because as hard as you try you simply cannot pinpoint a diagnosis of their odd cluster of symptoms. Maybe you’ve just given a devastating lifelong illness diagnosis to the patient before the one in front of you, or know you have to give a terminal diagnosis to the patient you see next.
As a patient, you tend to focus on your own situation and often forget that the provider is also human and subject to all the same range of emotions that you are. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Medicine is an ever-changing and inexact science and physicians, while often meaning well and with copious amounts of education and expertise, are not Gods, and are thus fallible human beings just as we are.
As the patient maybe you also have a sick family member you are worried about. Maybe you just want the doctor to give you a prescription for a pill to make you better from what ails you, but life isn’t always that cut and dry. Maybe as the patient, you’ve been to multiple specialists in an attempt to get a definitive diagnosis and after years of bouncing from one specialist to another as ordered by your team of physicians, you are just tired. You want a diagnosis and a treatment plan. After all, how hard can it be, really?
By realizing that both patients and providers are subject to the same experiences, albeit from different perspectives, maybe we can find more compassion for each other. Maybe we can be more understanding of each other even beyond the patient/provider relationship and reach out to our fellow human being and show some compassion to them and their situation regardless of the side of the bed they may be on.
What do you think? Have you got a story to share on this topic? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.