Saturday, July 20, 2019

What it takes to be a compassionate physician

Hello everyone!

I participated in the Daniels Family Foundation Scholarship in honor of an honorable physician at my program.  The requirement to participate was to submit a brief (500 words or less) essay that describes how you have demonstrated what it takes to be a compassionate physician dedicated to the practice of general internal medicine.

If possible, I want you to write an essay too. Please email them to me (medicowesome@gmail.com). I would love to hear your experiences (and maybe even publish them on Medicowesome if you'd like)

Let me go first and share my essay with you:

There are several instances where, I think, I have demonstrated the ability to be a compassionate physician. I try to know patients as a person in addition to knowing their medical history. We are so caught up in knowing diagnosis and treatment that we rarely "talk" to the patient. I feel sitting down and talking to the patient is extremely important. 

I remember the time in the ICU when I spoke with the daughter of a critically ill patient. I honestly let her know about the prognosis of her mother but at the same time, when she wasn't ready to make a decision, I respected her wishes and gave her time. She appreciated that the most. In the evening, she made her mother DNR and her mother passed away that night. I texted her my condolences and that's when she texted me back saying thank you and appreciation for what I did. That's how I know the little things we do matter. 

I remember taking care of a sweet but stubborn 90-year-old lady. I remember everything about her like it was yesterday - her name, her diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia and how I learned about her life, a little bit everyday. It's because I knew her so well, I could convince the team to not proceed with the PEG tube even after she consented to it. Even though the consent was taken by the Gastroenterologist, I knew it's not what she wanted. I knew she didn't understand what the PEG tube meant. We found out more about her and called her legal guardian - the decision to not proceed with the PEG was made. I remember enjoying her favorite drink, the Pepsi-Cola right before I said good bye prior to discharge with hospice. 

I remember how my senior and I walked with a patient who needed fresh air. He was anxious and claustrophobic. I remember how the patient did not even require diazepam because my senior spoke to him during the MRI. The rapport we build helped him so much. A consultant told her that if the patient survives, it's because she took the extra effort to make the diagnosis. Such seniors inspire me. They want me to be more and do more for the patients I see. 

I learnt that some attendings make calls a few days after seeing patients in clinic. I've started doing that too, even though it's not necessary. They appreciate it so much. One of my patients told me, "I'm so upset that I live up North. I wish I could see you every time I need to see a physician." The thank-yous after some phone calls are heart warming. They remind you of the reason why you decided to be a physician. 

I could go on and tell you about all of my experiences. Medicine is so humbling. But through every experience, I've learned one common thing. It applies to whether you are in the ICU or in clinic, whether you are in the US or in India - The diagnosis and treatment is easy. Most of us can do it. What takes time and effort is getting to know the patient who is also a human being outside the hospital. That's what helps you to take care of your patient the way they want to be taken care of - What's best for them as an individual. 

-IkaN

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