Who is the expert?

Today was a day filled with a very wet 3 mile hike, more cups of Chai than I care to admit, and yet again another great day filled with discussions of patient safety concerns. On the docket for today’s agenda? The story of Michael Skolink, Shared Decision Making, High Reliability Organizations, and Job Offer Negotiation.

As with the tragic story of Lewis Blackman, Michael’s story is one that should not be squandered but discussed openly and honestly so that we as the future of healthcare can be ready to catch these lethal medical errors before they have the chance to harm our patients. The greatest distress from me during this video was the words of the surgeon as he walked out of the operating suite: “This has been my worst year”. What an insensitive and cruel thing to say to a family that has waited an additional 3 hours to hear how their son’s surgery progressed. In those 6 words this surgeon displayed his true colors for the world to see. In that simple, heart wrenching sentence he placed himself above the importance of Michael. In those 6 words he undermined all of the sorrow, heartbreak and agitation that the Skolink family was feeling. Because his immediate thoughts were not towards his patient’s family. his immediate thoughts was towards his own standing and his own abilities as a surgeon. And what a half-rate surgeon and patient advocate he showed himself to be.

I’m on a soap box I do realize that fact. But I feel that this distinction is an important one that we all can learn from. It is high time that we check our egos at the door. High time that we stop thinking of ourselves first for the duration of a shift. High time that the healthcare system of the United States diverted its trajectory from a doctor-oriented system to a patient-centered support network. However, by making an effort to check our egos at the door, healthcare professionals will have to admit that the patient is every bit as important to the process of true health as their practitioners. What? How can that be? Have they spent countless hours, endless cups of caffeinated beverages, and many sleepless nights to become the best in their field? I would argue that yes, yes they have. They are the professional expert on what is normal, what hurts, and what is the desired outcome for their body. THEIRS. Not ours, not his, nor hers. THEIRS. As such, theirs is the opinion that must be valued above all others in the pursuit of a patient centered healthcare system.

Value your patients. They are the ones who gift us with the privilege to become so intimately connected to their lives, but always remember that we are temporary guests in the corners of their hospital or clinic room. As a guest, we must be cognizant to be on our best behavior and treat our patients with the dignity, transparency, and intelligence that is their due.

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