As a student, my patients were “the hepatomegaly in Bed 5”, and as a HO, it quickly became “the sickie in Bed 20 who is bleeding AGAIN”. But I’ve learnt that my patient with a lipoma is seeing me not because he wants the lump removed, but because he wants to hear that it is not cancer.
I’ve realised that in the same breath that I diagnose epilepsy, I destroy the livelihood of my patient who is a bus driver, and I shatter the hopes of a young female newlywed who wants to start a family – how is she going to do so now that I have told her of all the teratogenic effects of anti-epileptic drugs?
I realise that communication is more than simply a set of core skills or templates (think S-P-I-K-E-S for breaking bad news), where one is marked based on saying the correct things. In all this, I cannot simply treat the disease and neglect the patient.
And I realise that I often get it wrong, and am still learning – learning to meet my patients in their need, learning to truly take an interest in their lives, and learning to journey with them through their hopes and fears.
Excerpt from Growth as a physician, SMA News, July 2019, Pg 20 – 21
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