I initially shared an earlier version of this post with folks within the healthcare system I respect greatly and was a bit surprised to receive responses such as …
I do not want to become a place for people to share their emotionally charged feedback relative to the challenges they face within the healthcare system.
That said, I believe these responses have actually allowed me the opportunity to enhance the post … and so with some slight reframing, I am sharing the following:
- There is great emotion in healthcare. This is life and death. Life-changing. Yes, emotions are involved.
- We need to listen to all voices. The voice of the physician who was abused in medical school and has considered taking his or her own life. The voice of the nurse who is overworked, understaffed and burnt out. And yes the voice of the patient who feels disengaged from their clinician.
- And in each case emotions may be involved. We cannot shy away from it. We must lean in.
- This is not about shame and blame. This is about being open to new voices, new truths, truly listening and honoring them, and then using this wisdom to make things better together for all.
So what was the post that garnered such responses from folks …
It was a story of a woman who had battled through one life threatening illness, lost much of her hearing, and was continuing to manage her depression … who was then informed by her physician, whom she adored, that she was now diabetic.
It was a story of how this caring physician directed her to an expert in diabetes who then engaged with this woman using the standard operating procedure and checklist … and together how they developed goals to manage her diabetes.
The story continued with the patient realizing later that evening that she was actually still in shock with the new diagnosis when she had met with the specialist earlier in the day and was thus on autopilot during their encounter.
It included her continued emotional rollercoaster as she struggled through the healing process.
And the story concluded with the patient reaching out to the expert to let her know what she was feeling and the expert responding in agreement relative to the new goal defined by the patient, which was in line with what she needed at that time …
To discuss the emotional impact of the diagnosis with my psychologist and with my health care providers so that I can accept, integrate, and successfully manage all aspects of my health.
Personally I see this as a success story. A story of a patient who was engaged. A story of a clinician who listened and was open to new information. A clinician who honored the patient’s preference. And a patient better positioned to achieve her optimal health goal.
I see this as an example of a flame of goodness within the system which should be noted and learned from.
So yes, there are many emotions in healthcare … we are all human. And there will be times when information shared is not necessary wanted, is emotionally charged, and perhaps hard to hear. And yet, if we truly listen to the doctor, the nurse, the patient, the family … and are open … we can make things better.
Just like in this story.
Let’s no longer be afraid. Let’s be vulnerable and brave. For each other.