Blog | Monday, March 20, 2017

Always remember that the patient is a person


The title could (and should) provoke controversy and concern. Yesterday, I was giving feedback to my interns and resident after a two-week VA rotation. We had an interesting half-month. Several patients stand out, not because of their disease, but because we focused on them and how to help them.

A phrase I often use points out that we have two jobs, treat the disease and treat the person. Understanding the person with the disease often trumps understanding the disease. We have many patients for whom we have no more options to eradicate the disease. We always have options to help the person.

Patients can tell if you are focused on them as well as their disease. Patients expect (rightly) that we will help them and not just worry about the disease.

We who teach medicine have a great responsibility to role model and encourage this attitude. Patients often complain about disease oriented care without concomitant patient-centered care.

So every day, ask yourself, who is this person who has the disease. What are their goals and expectations? Let them know that we want to help them, even if that help does not change life expectancy. Patients want to have better days. Quality of life matters, and perhaps especially as they are facing their mortality. We make a huge difference, even when we have no cures. Our presence, reassurance, and caring matter to most patients. Make certain these people are not abandoned. They need our presence and caring. Good doctoring combines the science and the art. Please never ignore the art of medicine. It matters.

db is the nickname for Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP. db stands both for Dr. Bob and da boss. He is an academic general internist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and is the Regional Associate Dean for the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of UASOM. He still makes inpatient rounds over 100 days each year. This post originally appeared at his blog, db's Medical Rants.