For me, today revolved around humanism and our basic human needs and vulnerabilities. Humanism and medicine is defined by the Gold Foundation as being “a respectful and compassionate relationship between physicians, as well as all other members of the healthcare team, and their patients. It reflects attitudes and behaviors that are sensitive to the values and the cultural and ethnic backgrounds of others.”
We investigated Caring for the Caregiver, which focuses on that compassionate relationship between the members of the team. We saw an incredible video of a discussion between two physicians following a medical error with a terribly catastrophic outcome for the patient and the emotional response of the physician.
Then we learned about stories, something that are uniquely human, and how they are an important part of medicine. Understanding the story of the patient, having that human connection will make us better doctors. I have been fortunate to work with Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona on his Narrative Medicine research project, he believes that narrative life story interviews can improve the relationship between patients and doctors and improve healing. The life long relationship that physicians used to have with families may become a nostalgic yearning of the past but the sentiment doesn’t have to be completely lost.
Dr. Richard Weinburg from Wake Forest School of Medicine wrote a piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine reflecting on the current trend of medicine. Essentially, what good is it if you can complete an entire patient note if you do so without ever really knowing your patient. As Carol described today, it is the patient that you need to understand… the patient who happens to have a disease. Or, as Sir William Osler said, “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”
My final reflection is that with the benefits of this increase in humanism comes a strong emotional connection. That was made clear by Carole’s story today and the energy in the room. We are not taking care of patients, we are taking care of people and everything they mean to everyone in the world. It is said that if one saves a life it to be considered as having saved an entire world. So, if one is to lose a life, it is also as if one has lost an entire world. The responsibility we are given cannot be taken lightly, everything we do needs to be about the people we care for, the patient.
This article may be behind a pay-wall. Let me know if you need a copy:
Weinberg RB. Coeur d’Alene. Ann Intern Med. 2016;165:822-823. doi: 10.7326/M16-0258