Listening to Stories

My biggest takeaway from our Day 3 discussions was this important facts: our patients are people.  They are not their disease.  They are not the grouchy/tired/scared/stressed mood that they are in during our brief encounter.  They are not the poor historian, the lady who refuses X treatment, or the chain smoker in room 304.  They are Claire and Sally and Scott and Jim.  They are somebody’s child.  They are somebody’s friend.  They have hopes and dreams and fears.  They have a story that extends far beyond their HPI or this hospital stay or whatever chronic condition their PCP helps manage.  We only see a small sliver of their experience and yet we assume that we know what is best for them.

On the surface, listening to your patient’s story doesn’t seem particularly relevant to patient safety.  Certainly not when it is compared to the obvious benefits of surgical checklists, hand hygiene, and central line kits.  However, true listening helps protect us from our own assumptions and biases.  Listening brings issues to our awareness that we may never have uncovered.  Listening lets our patients know that their input matters, that they do have a choice.  Listening increases the quality of the care that we provide.

I have not had a lot of clinical experience yet.  I know it is easy to get caught up in the rush.  But I hope I am able to maintain my desire and ability to listen to my patients’ stories, no matter how intense everything else around me may get.

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