Two months ago, I gave birth to my bouncing baby boy at the hospital where I work. The experience of being at the receiving end of healthcare was beneficial to me. This would forever change the way I practice Medicine. Here are some of the important lessons I learnt.
1. Never take out your day’s frustration on a patient.
Do not show how stressed you are. You might feel like you are just doing your job, it’s another patient, another case. But to them, this is the moment they’ve been waiting for, “the doctor is here". "The infant feeding specialist is here". "The midwife is here". You’d better make it count.
2. Be caring.
I found out that doctors were more detached and less empathetic than the nurses and care workers. One doctor totally disregarded the presence of my husband. Patients remember how you made them feel much more than what you said to them. They can differentiate who really cares from who is just going through the motions.
3. Don't leave patients in the dark.
I understood how it felt to be left in the dark. I requested for a PRN (as needed) medicine and 4 hrs later, I was yet to receive it without any explanation. Imagine if that medicine was for pain. On the other hand, I also found that it doesn’t help to have conflicting information from different people. Usually patients are waiting for a decision. For instance, if a junior doctor says something, the patient may take it as final and make certain plans (e.g transport) based on that information, only for it to be changed later by a senior doctor. In that case it is better to say, "this is what I’m thinking would happen but let us wait for a final decision by my senior". That way you give hope but they don’t begin acting on it till it is final.
4. Don't be presumptive.
Don't assume that because a patient is a healthcare worker, that they know everything about their condition. Though I am a doctor and have taken care of children, I still needed to be taught how to sterilize feeding equipment, bath baby, position baby to breast feed, etc.
5. Don't judge without understanding.
I understood how it felt to be judged incorrectly from my actions being misconstrued. I was suspected of neglecting my child without the observer seeking an explanation from me.
6. Always introduce yourself and what you do when meeting a patient for the first time.
So many different teams came around. It was a bit confusing who was who, even for me who worked there.
7. Needles are really painful. Be considerate.
I was unfortunate to have very difficult veins. From my antenatal period till delivery, they always had multiple attempts at getting blood off me. It made me reconsider the sense behind a healthcare worker having a third trial if there is a more experienced person available to do the job. Many a times, this is done out of personal ego; not wanting to accept failure. My being a doctor didn't protect me from multiple attempts. In order not to be seen as being obstructive due to my position, I kept quiet initially. But when it became too much to bear, I raised an objection. Patients have every right to refuse an intervention.
8. There is no place like home.
It was starting to become almost depressing as I had stayed over a week in hospital. I eventually got discharged, only to be re-admitted the following day. However, I was so pleased to be home even for one night; to finally sleep on my bed, eat home-cooked food, and enjoy the love and comfort of family. I wouldn't trade that for anything. Because we know patients recover better from home, in our paediatric ward we allow home leave when patients request and are fit for it. If they are on once-daily antibiotics through their veins, we allow them to come in daily for it from home.
Out of all that I met, I will not forget:
- The midwife who explained the duration of the induction process and calmed our nerves.
- The midwife who stayed by my bedside all night during the last day of the induction.
- The doctor who delivered my baby.
- The carers who gave me a bed bath after delivery.
- And the infant feeding nurse who very patiently helped me position my baby to suckle.
I am terrible with names but one stands out - Esthera.
Radiant ~ June 2020
Very lovely read. Raised many salient points. Its always good to experience it from the other side. Well written piece. Congratulations.
Good points. I had my baby also at the hospital where I worked and your story brought back memories.
Nice piece . As always the experience is very different when one is the patient
Nice lessons to be learnt here .
Nice one. That was really an experience that is worth sharing. Thanks for sharing.
Lovely read. Great points raised. My veins are equally amazing. A Consultant tried 15times on me and yes I said 'fifteen' till he finally brought an Ultrasound to help. It was a necessary test though as I would have given up.
Reminds me of my first birth.
@Ginika Jesus is Lord!!! I couldn’t have stayed put. 15x by one person. Why didn’t he ask another consultant to try?
"I found out that doctors were more detached and less empathetic than the nurses and care workers"... the story of our lives.
And we have excuses for this: we are busy, we have many patients, one exam or the other, a research, upcoming journal club presentation, an audit to complete... the list goes on.
At the end of the day, the patient only knows you are his/her doctor! Act like it...
Empathy is the word. Thanks for a beautiful piece of writing. You never cease to amaze me. Keep it up dearie.
Lovely article. I have been in your shoes and totally identify with all points raised.. Thanks for highlighting them. Xx
Very well stated points.Having a patient experience can be practice changing.
Knowing that you are doctor could cause anxiety for a colleague. The fear of making mistake could even lead to a mistake. As already stated, doctors are always too busy with one professional engagement or the other thus leaving little or no time for proper interpersonal relationship with patients. Maybe, we may need revisit our style of training so as to emphasise more things that truly matter.
@Unknown True. That is why if I can avoid it, I prefer not to mention that I am a doctor when I am seeking healthcare so the carers can be themselves and less anxious. Yea, our doctor training could be revisited to emphasise more care.
Your experience resonates quite well as I was in the birthing suite with my wife more than a year ago and the experience changed my perspective about the way I conduct myself before patients. A good dose of kindness and empathy does do wonders.
Being on the receiving end always leads to these reflections. Very well done!
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