When I teach my Public Health students and when I hold Grand Rounds sessions with medical students, the issue of patient interaction is always a hot topic. Many scientific minds see the world in clinical terms because it helps remove the heat of emotion from the diagnosis and the healing.
The problem with treating patients in a cool, clinical, manner is people often become reduced to numbers in a blood test and a name on a patient chart. “There isn’t enough time to care,” one student told me. “We’re overwhelmed and the patient is the product.”
Releasing, for a moment, the idea a medical students sees someone in need of help as a “product” — let’s examine the exponential effect of that attitude: Coldness, uncaring interaction and disdain for those “products” that do not appropriately respond to the latest therapeutic routines.
It’s all a prescription for disaster! The danger, it seems to me, in not being connected with a patient is to miss the small things that change over time that might be a clue to what’s really wrong. Talking to a patient is too often viewed by MDs as a task and not a delight of the day. When I suggest an MD sit next to the bed and talk to the patient, some students raise their hand to argue, “That’s what nurses are for. They care about the patient. We care about medicine.”
That’s the heart of the problem with most medical care today: Heartless care is provided in the name of medicine and not people. Doctors don’t “practice medicine” — they are really slaves to disease — their job is to discover and to mend and to heal others; and you best do that by loving your patients instead of hating them, or by being neutral to them or by being distant in their time of need. “Love your patients,”
I urge my students, “Because what other choice do you have as the role of the Healer in your culture? You don’t just heal people with your mind or your hands. Sometimes the miracle of healing comes from the warmth of your heart.”