In our training, we are taught that medicine is about facts. It is about figures. It is about classifying and diagnosing diseases. It is knowing the right treatment. It is about knowing the side effects.
But Medicine is all of those things, but that is not the heart of medicine. Over and above all medicine is about people, which means it is about relationships.
Sound strange to consider?
People come and see us, and we see people in the hospitals and the health care industry. We don’t see ‘illnesses and diseases’, as much as we learn to see people as those particular categories. We don’t see machines who automatically follow instructions – people come with their different understandings and approaches to health care. There are many facets to the people that we are seeing, and if we are not connecting with them and building relationships, we are not going to be able to communicate with them, and they are not going to be able to freely communicate with us.
How we relate to people is at the heart of how well we are able to practice medicine. The thing that hurts us most in life is how poor our relationships are or when there are relationship breakdowns. Medicine is no different and people are no different when they are seeking health care.
If the doctor-patient relationship breaks down, it takes relationship skills to build that and to re-build it. Your skills at diagnosing or knowing the parts of the Krebs cycle do not put the person at ease in your consulting room, nor assist you in understanding what is going on for that person in your waiting room.
People are the currency of medicine and like us, they are and have been hurt by relationships that have not been and are not loving and caring.
It is part of our responsibility in medicine to build loving and caring relationships with the people that are seeing us as well as the people we are working with. Healthy relationships are a healthy part of life. We do not need to fix people’s lives, or deal with all of their problems, but we can be a point of consistency in their lives, a caring reliable presence that they can trust when they come and see us.
If we are not able to have healthy relationships, we are not able to have truly healthy and fulfilling practices of medicine. True satisfaction in life does not come from knowing the answers, but it comes from healthy relationships.
More healing is brought to people through our quality and consistency than we could ever imagine.
In a world where there is enormous mistrust, fear and hatred from poor relationships where people are most hurt by people than anything else, we have a big part to play in peoples’ lives, bigger than we imagine.
We can either perpetuate and continue the cycle of mistrust and disconnection, or, we can be a pivotal point that lets people know that there is more to life and there are in fact people who are caring and who can be trusted.
In Medicine, in addition to learning the vast amount of information needed to provide a health care service, we need to bring our focus to our ability to build relationships with our patients, staff and people in general. Instead, it is something that we are notoriously bad at as a profession.