As a doctor, stakeholder, or just an enthusiast of the medical profession, you must have watched the movie Patch Adams at some point. If you haven't, you're missing out on a lot.
Nonetheless, Robin Williams plays the role of an unconventional doctor who fights against the system to break away from the cut and dry treatment of symptoms and instead focuses on treating the patient.
This movie is based on the life of a real physician, Hunter “Patch” Adams who made a big impact on people’s lives, even when he couldn’t cure them, simply by making them smile.
His philosophy was to use humor, but more importantly compassion and dignity, to improve the quality of the lives of his patients.
His story led to him opening up his own hospital where he offered free medical help to anyone who needed it.
Now, it may not be in all physician’s ability to open up a free hospital, but Patch Adams fought against a tunnel vision in medicine back in 1971 and yet we are still needing the reminders that he inspired in doctors back then.
If physicians could slow down and take a step back to see the big picture, they could treat their patients with a much higher success rate. This success rate may not be that of curing and saving lives, but of that of the contentment of your patients once they leave your care.
Joy Hallmark explained this in her story of treating a patient with squamous cell carcinoma that came into the ER. This person had shortness of breath and was scared to die of asphyxiation, but she knew that her time was short.
Normally, you would admit this person into ICU and prolong her life as much as you could, but was that what the patient wanted? No. She wanted to spend what time she had left at home with those that she loved.
Joy gave her oxygen and fluids but eventually discharged her to go home with hospice.
This brings up an important point. In order to see the big picture, you have to know the whole story. In order to know the whole story, you have to learn the art of listening to your patients.
The way you go about treating this patient should also include their personal goals, life situation, hopes, and fears. Of course, while listening you should perform in-depth diagnosis and dig into their medical history.
Once you have taken all aspects into consideration and decided on a treatment plan, consult the patient, and make adjustments according to their desires.
Using empathy and compassion, consider how you yourself would react if injured. What would be your concerns? Disability insurance can help but you’d still be worried about your quality of life.
The same is true of your patients.
As a doctor, you’ve spent years educating yourself on the human body and its illnesses. You’ve learned the many different ways to treat these.
Depending on your specialty you probably learned even more intricate procedures and value this knowledge to help save lives. In no way are you wrong in this, but step back.
Remember that with all your knowledge, you are still treating a human being with feelings and emotions, not just a body. They are unique, as are their hopes when they come to seek treatment.
Providing the highest quality of medical care always involves more than simply finding a solution to a list of symptoms.
In the words of Patch Adams, “Death is not the enemy sir, Indifference is! You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you'll win, no matter what the outcome.”