Do you love your doctor?
Does your doctor love her work?
What would that look like?
How would it transform her care of you and your relationship with her?
When we entered medical school, it felt almost euphoric—we dreamed and worked for years, then the awesome tribe of healers and scientists accepted us into its ranks, woohoooo! Then we trained and entered practice, and the luster wore off quickly for many of us. By the end of their third year, 13% of medical students report thinking of suicide at one time or another. Over half of primary care physicians experience symptoms of burnout. The suicide rate among physicians dwarfs that of the general population.
Our healthcare system consistently divides physicians from patients, and we all suffer. Imagine coming to work every morning, knowing your job is to help people in their most vulnerable and intimate states, when you yourself feel utterly exhausted and spent. We know we let our patients down when we can’t bring our best selves, and it kills us. Maybe you come to the doctor, hoping for and expecting answers and relief for your suffering, or at least a little compassion, and you find him distant and distracted, even indifferent and cold. How could you possibly trust him and open up again? Physicians and patients both take out our frustrations on each other, often without even knowing, and our relationships deteriorate quickly.
I know not all patient-physician relationships feel like this. But enough do that our healthcare system corrodes at its core. How often do you meet a doctor who so obviously loves his work that his passion for health rubs off on you, making you want to take better care of yourself? Think of your most fulfilling relationships—what are the common features? Likely you respect these people, know them well, forgive them their mistakes, and want the best for them. They probably feel the same for you. Both parties feel seen, heard, understood, and accepted. It’s safe, and you connect. What if your relationship with your doctor felt like this?
My premise: Patients and physicians have control over one thing above all else: our relationship with each other. Relationships live and die by communication. Barriers on the obstacle course of patient-physician communication loom large and formidable. Our system fails us over and again. And it falls to each of us, not the system, to find our way to connection and healing relationships.
In this blog, I explore practices: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and communication, among others. I share stories from practice, friendship, marriage, parenting–life! Because all relationships impact us and teach us. Our relationships save us. And through these practices, with some laughs and Aha! moments along the way, we can save the physician-patient relationship.