Saturday, January 29, 2005

Being Nice

I'm slowly learning how to be therapeutic, polite and kind while hating my patient's guts. It's extremely difficult. One of my patients this week drove me absolutely crazy and half a dozen times I really would have rather stuck things in other places and omitted certain parts of my interventions (pain medicine, for example...).

Sometimes I wonder if you can see it on my face. I'll have to start practicing unfurrowing the brow, relaxing the lips, lowering my middle finger etc.

It's hard to know how not to let things get to you. A lot of people in medicine and nursing jut turn off all of their patients-are-people neuropathways and treat everyone brusquely or in that over-friendly, dehumanizing and familiar manner that drives me crazy ("And how is our new mommy doing today?"). I know that some hospitals (and one of our textbooks) refer to patients as "clients," in order to emphasize the service-orientation of health care. That has its advantages but when I'm washing a cancer patient's feet because they cannot do it on their own, I feel very differently towards that person than I imagine I would if I were giving them a pedicure for $40.00.

There's obviously a balance to strike but I think it will take years and years before I can even find the fulcrum.


19 Comments:

Blogger Ilan Muskat said...

At least nobody calls them "tickets" or "jobs" -- I don't know what the best approach is, but I do know that one can burn out in very short order if one thinks about *people* dying in front of them all the time.

Probably easier on the psyche to think of them as "people's bodies", but still "bodies", and treat the place like a mechanic's shop.

Though, I suspect the problem with that will be evident once you start treating non-patients with that level of detachment.

Of course, people still use the plastic smiles and patronizing expressions when they're not in hospitals -- retail, for instance. Tough call.

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