Three ways we can help our patients - Look, Listen, and feel.
Health care continues to change daily with new treatments, equipment, and positions designed to support these efforts. It seems the only constant that remains in health care is that person lying in the bed or sitting on the exam table. The patient. Hopefully they will continue to be the focus of all this new activity, but it seems that the relationship we need with our patients to create positive change is slipping away. How can we restore that relationship, and help our patients?
It's as easy as to Look, Listen, and Feel. For many of us that conjurs up visions of other medical training or actual interventions, but I'm speaking to how we must engage our patients to honestly help them experience positive change.
“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Look - We first have to look or see our patients. Often this can be challenging because our vision is blurred by the view of a patient who's not acting as we would choose, or maybe the smell is burning our eyes, or maybe we have our eyes closed because we're disgusted with the situation before us. The challenge is that we can't help the people we serve unless we truly look at them, and see them for who they are in that moment. It's like looking at an oil painting from accross the room. What we see is the finished product of the image we see, but when you're next to the painting you can the uneven surface and brush strokes. Our patients are like the painting because each brush stroke may be an experience that has impacted their life resulting in the physical manifestations of their health problems. Without getting close enough to look at them we won't appreciate the foundation of the person, and know how we can or can't help them.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful
Listen - How true are the words by Stephen Covey? For many of us we either don't stop to listen to others or are distracted by thoughts in our heads. Either way we miss out on the story we need to hear. Listening can be difficult and time-consuming, but without listening we can't appreciate the journey. It reminds me of the numerous vacations I was blessed to enjoy as a child with my family. My Dad was a school administrator, and therefore had part of the summer off each year. When he was off we would hop in the car, and travel accross the country producing amazing experiences seeing places like Mount Rushmore. On these long road trips my mother would help her two rambunctious boys pass the time by reading us books. Whether it was the Hardy Boys or the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe my Mom's voice would draw us into to an exciting story. In these instances our listening created visions of characters, and took us on journeys that enriched our experiences. In order to have that same experience in our interactions with patients we must listen to the story they're telling. Without truly listening we can't appreciate, understand, or attempt to help in a way that will benefit them and impact their health.
“We think too much and feel too little.”
― Charlie Chaplin
Feel - The act of touching another person to convey caring, compassion, or empathy. Also, to connect with someone emotionally to produce a positive interaction. With the hustle and bustle that occurs in most health care facilities there has become very little time for making these connections. Time is often our enemy, so we have to take advantage of the interactions we have with our patients. We need to be in the moment with them, and put away any assumptions about them or their situation. We must try to understand their situation without measuring it against our own judgement and values. To honestly help, we have to be with them in their pain and let the experiene unfold. We have to absorb the anger and the grief they are feeling, and not distance ourselves with some phoney excuse about maintaining professionalism. It's difficult to embrace the feelings because it can elicit emotions on our part, but that's what is needed to show them we can help in their time of need. We are not treating diseases, but people who need us to Look, Listen, and Feel their need for our help. Then we can drive positive change in the lives of those we're trying to serve.
"Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle"