So the 3rd Annual Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) Solidarity Day (Take 5) for Compassionate Patient Care is close upon us, coming on the February 14, 2013 this week. The first one was on February 14, 2011 only weeks after the mass shooting in Tucson. One of the victims was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Dr. Randall Friese, a University of Arizona trauma surgeon, said the most important thing he did for her was to hold her hand and tell her she was in a hospital and would be cared for, Gold Foundation: GHHS Solidarity Day. It just so happens that I’ll be off duty on Solidarity Day this year, so I’m asking readers to Take 5 by commenting on this post starting today and continuing up through February 14th. Let’s see how many we can collect!
I was thinking about the 2013 GHHS Essay Contest (Gold Foundation: Essay Contest) which is open for submissions through April 5, 2013. It’s open only to medical students and is a wonderful reflective writing exercise. The themes are “Who is the “good doctor?” and “What do you think are the barriers to humanism in medicine today?” I hope a lot of medical students are entering!
Well, I’m far from being a medical student, but I did enter the Hektoen International 2013 Grand Prix Essay Competition and invite other doctors to do so as well, whether or not you’re a geezer; see link, Hektoen International. It could also be a reflective essay and would extend the idea of a continuous practice from medical school on toward reaching the ideal of being the “good doctor.”
Despite the ineligibility of any entry of mine toward the GHHS essay contest, I thought I’d take a stab anyway here on my blog at describing what I think a “good doctor” might be. It’s a tall order, trying to get my head around a broad topic like that. Luckily, I’ve got a pretty big head.
This is my way of Taking 5, because as I mentioned earlier, I’ll not be at the hospital seeing patients on February 14, 2013 because–well, if you must know, I’ve got a date with my wife for Valentine’s Day. We’ll be having dinner out and then it’s off to the theater to take in the premier performance of The Break Dancing Koala Bears!
So this brief essay is my Take 5 Solidarity Day contribution in lieu of face-to-face interviews with patients. However, the essay is only a point of departure. I’m asking the readers to participate by talking back in the form of comments.
I suppose the first idea that occurs to me about what a good doctor does is that he listens carefully to patients. I think that means sitting down. If I’m going to spend any time with a patient when I walk into a hospital room or in the clinic, I look for a chair first. This can lead to some fairly comical episodes of family and patients scrambling to give up their own chairs as they gape in astonishment at perhaps the first doctor they’ve seen all day who actually thinks about sitting down with them.
Then I think the next thing a good doctor does is to ask what she can do for the patient. As a psychiatric consultant, I often find I have two customers, the physician colleague who asked me to “evaluate” the patient, and possibly the patient–if he or she even knew I was coming, which is sometimes not the case. It’s more than just good manners to ask what one can do for a patient. It’s the beginning of listening for understanding.
That reminds me of another characteristic of a good doctor. In my opinion, a good doctor tells a patient that he is thinking of calling a psychiatrist for helpful collaboration, and asks…would the patient mind?
A good doctor thinks long and hard before hugging a patient or allowing a patient to hug her. A personal boundary is a critically important part of a safe, therapeutic relationship. Exceptions to this rule are rare–but good doctors not only know the rules; they know the exceptions.
While some might think a good doctor must never cry in front of a patient, both patients and families may occasionally appreciate it when a doctor cries with them.
A good doctor knows when to respect a patient’s preferences, and when to gently say “no” when requests for potentially harmful interventions don’t seem warranted.
A good doctor knows how important it is to take good care of himself and will try to manage the often-blurred line between work and home.
Now we’re just getting started. I’m well aware that not everyone might agree with what I’ve said about what makes a good doctor, and I haven’t mentioned a fraction of what could be said.
Now it’s your turn to comment on this introduction and take it further. I’m in a peculiar position this year because I’ll be unable to “take 5″ with any patient on February 14th. I would be absolutely thrilled if readers want to take 5 with me by leaving comments, suggestions, and their own reflections on what a good doctors is or does–this is your chance.
Now, take 5 with the Geezer!