Over the years, first as a medical student for 8 years as an undergraduate and then during my post graduation, and then during the few years of clinical practice, it has been fascinating to have observed the attitudes of fellow professionals.
Since ages, we medical professionals have been privileged to have been accorded the greatest respect across other professions. This in no small measure is due to the ability to lessen pain and alleviate suffering of people’s agony creating an image of doctors as angels. I have observed the praise so generated boost and inflate the egos of many medical professionals. Over time, this has resulted in many current doctors becoming more interested in attaining higher positions or running after an ideal financial figure, and not putting the needs of their patients first.
There is a need for some radical changes in the way we are making doctors, plugging the loopholes of the often dismissive attitude of current doctors’ towards the public. I have noticed a disturbing trend of doctors forgetting that they are interacting with human beings. There is an increasing trend of patients not complying with the treatment modalities due to the improper communication methods employed by some doctors. I have heard many patients complaining that the doctors are behaving like dictators and giving commands instead of explaining the reason behind certain treatment methods.
Doctors of the earlier generations used to be gentle and willing to listen to their patients, convey the need for the remedial measures and finally persuade and convince the patients to opt for the particular line of therapy. This empathy towards the patient is the first thing that a good doctor needs to imbibe, instead of blindly following medical textbooks that do not consider the importance of good communication and other soft skills.
As a medical student, we are now exposed to various professional and personality development modules that stress upon developing a good form of rapport, empathy and support with all patients. Why is this not translated into practice? Is it because students in their early medical education are not mature enough to grasp at these concepts? To be honest, teenage years are not exactly a time when most of us are receptive to sermons, let alone sentimental talks on placing oneself in the shoes of another.
Once the student is in the clinical phase of learning, the daily routine is restricted to the sole interest in obtaining proper history, follow it with relevant physical examination, present the case to the instructor and forget about it till exam time. Frankly speaking, the student in such a case didn’t even establish eye contact with that particular patient and we all know how a glimpse or a spontaneous smile can melt an iceberg of anxiety. This same routine is then adopted when the student becomes a doctor, with the added routine of diagnosing the condition with additional tests (that may or may not be necessary), a bag full of drugs, with instructions to take them regularly. As a sequel, the patients leave the hospital with a bag of drugs that might cure the physical illness but leaves them psychologically unwell.
Maybe it is time for the current generation of medical students and fresh medical graduates to follow a set of rules and orders to represent doctors as humans before anything else.
These rules I tried to follow during my internship days and then when I was in clinical practice are as follows:
- Once you wake up in the morning try to put yourself in a good mood, a poor mood will ruin your day and this will likely have an impact on how your patient perceives you.
- The moment you step into the workplace, make it your aim to see that everyone you interact with on the day has a positive experience.
- Try to arrive early to work;this will help you to simply immerse yourself in the working atmosphere, putting aside your personal matters and help you focus on the work ahead.
- Treat your patients with empathy and respect. Try to understand their stories, build their confidence in you by allowing them to share their fears and explain to them how you want to help them.
- At the end of the day, try to visualize and recall the people you met and how you were able to help them. Are you satisfied with what you’ve achieved? If you are, it shows that you are on the right track!
To sum it up, ethics and moral principles are well established in every profession but it’s our concern to inject them in our system not only by stating their existence but also by applying them in our everyday practice and interaction with patients, colleagues and hospital staff.