As an obstetrician and gynecologist I have the best job in the world.
Could you possibly imagine coping with our unpredictable, often grueling daily routines, the wakeful nights, the repetitive questions and concerns of expectant and delivered mothers and the time we take away from our families, if we did not care passionately about and love our work? Of course the rewards are incomparable – the joy of first diagnosing a pregnancy - manifold greater if you helped the couple deal with infertility, of regularly meeting largely happy and smiling patients and their large attendant entourage, the being a part of the most important event in human existence and the being the first to touch and hear a new life, with all this leading to a development of a lifelong bond with an entire family.
No other medical specialty comes close in forging a lifelong relationship and interdependence with patients as ours does. We care for women throughout their lives and we have it all – the infinite patience and the adrenaline of obstetrics, the skills and thrills of surgery, the thought processes and decision making of medicine and endocrinology, the cutting edge technologies, the valuable contribution to preventive health care with national and global implications and most importantly the responsibility for being the advocates and the voice for the reproductive rights of all women.
I recently came across an interesting article 'Steal your customer's heart away!' by Anne Obarski. It presented a novel approach by which businesses could add a new dimension in their interactions with their clients and customers. As I read it, it seemed as though it could have even been written for the medical profession and I share it with you.
Our profession is a calling unlike any other. While we doctors are also approached with a request to provide a certain service and there is an expectation of a certain outcome, the human angle of the doctor – patient relationship sets it apart from all other service oriented professions and businesses. It is to highlight this unique status of the medical profession that I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing the article.
Professions or businesses just like love are about building relationships, working on communication skills and fanning the flame when it starts to die. Practices and companies like people sometimes let themselves go. They put on a little weight, they don't take care of themselves and they forget how to romance the person that is supposed to be the centre of their lives. And we must remember that we can't even start thinking outside the box till the inside of the box is maintained on a daily basis.
When was the last time we stopped to take a critical look at our practice or at how our hospitals, our clinics and our consulting rooms function and interact with our patients? When did we last do an audit of how we practice and whether we have changed ourselves to keep abreast with times? Have we developed an accountability process for all our staff, including ourselves in the work we each do? When if ever have we looked at patient centric staff training and orientation and communication skills development? Would our patients say they appreciate or in the case of an obstetric practice even enjoy their interaction with us and our practice? If not where is the problem? ...
Being in love is challenging at times! Being in love with your patients, staff and employees can really push the limits! But if we make the commitment, we will do whatever it takes to keep the people who matter most in our practice and profession, happy. We only need to keep thinking about it and keep making changes and adjustments as is needed from time to time.
Of course all of us have in our practice many wonderful sensitive patients it would be very easy for us to love. But it is as, if not more important for us to make the sometimes Herculean effort needed to love the difficult ones. If you can get through to these patients, not only will you have made your practice less difficult, you will medico-legally have also have made it a lot safer.
And it does not matter whether our practice is based in a polyclinic and nursing home, a medical college teaching hospital or a corporate hospital. The same rules of loving our patients and staff apply to all these and everything in between.
Let us also keep in mind that our patients don't just come to us just seeking to be fixed or cured. They have other expectations of their care givers as well. Unless these are also addressed, anything just done medically will seem incomplete and that is not a feeling we would like to leave them with.
'Patients expect care, compassion, consideration, communication and comfort. What they expect is nothing more.
What we should give is nothing less.'
So how can we get the spark back in our practice? The answer just might be to fall in love all over with our profession, our staff and most of all our patients.