In Medicine we spend a lot of time learning about facts figures and statistics. We learn about guidelines, the Krebs cycle, the different types of renal tubular acidosis and the right drugs to prescribe under the right circumstances. We learn about the correct procedures and how to do good operations.
All of these things are vital and important in medicine, as if we do not get this stuff right, things go wrong for people.
But, are these things where our true power lies as physicians?
Much of what we learn is about function. It is about getting protocols right and following procedures. But these are all impersonal things.
What about the personal? Is that important?
After all, Medicine is fundamentally about people. It has care for people at its heart.
And as people, what is it that we seek when we are ill?
We naturally seek a true care. And not only care, we actually want to feel loved.
If we can remember back, since we are small when we do not feel well, we seek a caring and nurturing presence. It is sometimes when Mum just kisses the wound that we feel better. We are in fact as children innately seeking love as we feel it will make everything better.
There is enormous power in this love and this care. When we are little and troubled or in pain we don’t seek gruff dad or an angry mum to tell us to ‘pull ourselves together’ we seek somebody who will listen to us, who will care for us, let us fold ourselves into them and feel safe and that we can trust. And then we can let go of our hurts and our wounds and let ourselves heal.
All of these things are important to us no matter what size we are, even if we might deny it and pretend we are tough.. after all there is no cut off date for ‘child’ and ‘adult’ feelings that is age or size dependent!
As we age somehow we learn and are taught that we cannot ask for these things, but yet if we are honest we know that we all crave it deep inside.
Some of our deepest wounds that we carry as people are the feeling that nobody cares for us, that we are unloved and that we are not understood. These are deep wounds indeed that we as people take with us into daily life.
Imagine then being sick, feeling that nobody cares for you, that nobody understands you and having to entrust yourself at your most vulnerable to a whole group of strangers from whom you know cannot expect the care and love that you seek because you are not small and they are not family?!
Imagine how threatening that must be for people? And what a barrier that might be to accessing health care…
In addition, the health care environments are not at all loving or comfortable. They are frequently harsh, clinical, cold and uncomfortable. And people working in these environments despite doing their best are often stressed out and finding it hard to get through their working days themselves. Not an inspiring thing to look at when you are ill yourself seeing people around you supposed to be caring for you not looking to be in good health themselves!
Imagine instead the healing and support a person receives when they are met with a true love and care from people caring for them when they are ill?
Given that what it is that we all seek when we are ill is a true care, could it be possible that our true power as physicians lies in the love and the care that we have for people and the way that we let that show?
I know that when I am ill, I do not seek a hard and cold clinical person, even if they are the best technically in what they do. I seek someone who is going to care about me as a person, connect with me as person, understand me, and, also be the best at what they do. I will not feel safe with somebody until I first feel that they hear me, and they care about me. And I know that I am not alone in this.
There is enormous healing power in the presence of care and love alone. As with children, no-one feels a greater trust and surrender when they feel that they are truly cared for and loved. It is surrender and trust that is key in healing.
As physicians we make an enormous difference in the lives of people through the work that we do. Medicine is magnificent and dedicated in its service to the community through providing the best possible medicines and operations.
But far beyond the technical skills, it is who we are and the relationships that we have with our patients that have a long lasting and enduring impact on people.
- Listening to people is a huge thing and makes a huge difference. When people feel heard it is a huge healing for them.
- Meeting someone who truly cares and who truly loves people is a life changing experience for many people living in a harsh world where judgment and castigation and frank abuse is the norm for many people.
- Even taking the time to laugh with someone and share a joke makes a huge difference.
Many people in the world have given up on the fact that people caring about people who they are not related to is a possibility.
Many people go through life seeking love and care and never finding it.
As physicians we are in a unique position to offer something that is sorely missing in life for many people that can be deeply healing.
Knowledge and protocols and treatment preferences come and go with time and as new things are learned.
However at its core, and ever unchangeable is the fact that health care is fundamentally about care for people.
That care for others begins with caring for ourselves. When we care for ourselves we naturally emanate and live a care and compassion for others.
Our true power as physicians is in the care that we have first for ourselves and then for others. And this is something that no protocol and no machine, no diagnostic algorithm or computer can ever replace.
There is healing that occurs beyond words and measuring tools in the presence of a true care, and this is the true seat of our profession; the seat which then holds the needed knowledge and skills.
Nothing can ever replace the true power of a physician: love and care for people, a power far beyond words and profit margins.