Image by EMS Shane in Portland via Flickr
I am writing a series of blog-posts outlining self-care in which we examine the tenets of self-care:
Self-Care Tip #265 – Use your connections to help yourself and use your self-care to improve your connections (such as your patient-doctor relationship.)
Damaged and premature, my niece was born needing help to live. Now, one year later, I am playing ball with her on the floor. Her intelligent smile, thriving body, and especially the lovely nape of her neck with that baby-curl of hair lipping up makes remembering her near death-dive into life surreal. I don’t want to remember it anyway. But when I can’t help myself, what I like to think of is how my brother and sister-in-law were treated.
The clinicians at UCSD were unbelievable, my brother said. They included him in their decision-making and informed him of medical study results. If you don’t know, if you’ve never been sick or been in a medical setting otherwise, this doesn’t always happen. It isn’t traditional to share medical information directly with patients (such as x-rays, laboratory results, differential diagnoses, and to ask their opinion. Can you imagine?! “…Um. Yes PLEASE! Can I be your patient!?” Sounds like fantasy.)
I’ve also struggled to collaborate. Hovering over charts and laboratory results, many of us practitioners behave as if our patients were at any moment going to throw us into court. It’s embarrassing, even though the truth is, too many of us clinicians are stalked by litigious intentions, whilst the truly awful practitioners seem to sail away on unsinkable malpractice without pursuit.
I have not enjoyed myself when I’ve done this. When I’ve acted suspicious of the very people I’m meant to team up with, work was not good for me. I don’t think my patients felt comfortable with the doctor-patient relationship either during those times. Hearing my brother talk about how he was treated has emboldened me to engage with more trust in the care I offer patients. Moreso, being friendly to myself has helped me be a better physician. It’s tail chasing but with productive and enriching effects.
Making a choice to choose trust and transparency with patients and clinicians, even being present with the fear, is self-care although high pressure. With people’s lives on the line, clinicians and patients know mistakes will happen. The self-care will grow our ability to forgive each other.
My journey with self-care has brought me to see people differently. I look at them from the self-care angle. I look for those sticky bits where we can connect and collaborate. I expect things from them. I ally myself with their self-respect, with their intuitive desire to be friends with themselves. I am bored at work when I don’t do this. I am bored at work when my patients don’t do this too. Without self-care for myself and without my patient’s interest in self-care, medical practice becomes everything that the negative reputations advertise about the physician and the patient.
Yes. My quality of practice has definitely improved.
Who isn’t blessed when she sees the courage to face stigma, shame and bewildering illness? Who isn’t more informed every time someone chooses the freedom to do self-care, chooses to live, fights hard like my niece did and shows what that fight is worth?
Who doesn’t learn from that? When someone loses her identity to the defacing ravages of disease but still knows she is worth the fight, like PattyAnne, working beside her is one of the best places in the world to be. For Me. It starts and ends with Me.
Building trust in a patient or a clinician starts with us staying connected to others in our personal circle and along the ripples as the circle widens. We have to have a voice and hear their voice and we do this by maintaining a community of people.
Connection is part of self-care for both clinician and patient. In the case of PattyAnne, (yes, she’s still in our story,) she could take an action toward her self-care with the intention of gaining stronger connection to her community and to me. She could ask herself about her intentions. In fact, we both would do better self-care approaching each other this way.
Connection via the patient-doctor relationship is self-care and then back the other way too!
It starts and ends with Me.
Questions: Has your patient-doctor relationship been a friendly part of what you’ve given yourself? What are some examples or in what ways have other connections you’ve chosen improved your self-care? How has self-care inversely improved your patient-doctor relationship? Please tell me your story.