Updated: May 31
I recently had to do some scans as part of my routine checkups of being a former breast cancer patient. This is routine scan to make sure everything is still perfect. The reality is that even if my analytic brain knows that it's “just a scan”, my mind raced to all of the “what if” options that aren’t so perfect. What if they find something? What if something isn’t right? What if I need to change treatment? What if, what if, what if.
In an ideal world, the technicians and nurses (I’m not talking about doctors because they are so busy behind their computers I have never seen or talked to one during these tests) would be able to use words of reassurance. Making their patients feel at ease. They would allow their compassionate self to hear the anxiety these tests are causing to their patients.
For those of you who think I am dreaming, this is exactly how I was educated. When I first started medical school in Paris, we were mandated by the government to spend an entire summer with hospital nurses. The idea was to make sure that those of us who were to become doctors, would relate to the work that nurses were doing. It is during that time that I learned to put intravenous access, draw blood, and do urine analyses. Most importantly, what this time taught me more than anything is compassion.
Nurses are extraordinary. They have gigantic hearts and offer their shoulders for patients and family members to cry and to wipe their tears. They have words of encouragement and know how to calm the anxiety of their loved ones. Nurses also know how to make their patients and doctors laugh. I will always remember when a nurse pranked us into thinking that we had another patient with purple urine! The first one was so extraordinary we had written a case report in a medical journal about it! We were shocked and excited. And laughed very hard when she showed us the water and the dye she had put in a urine bag, that in fact did not belong to any patient, to make it look purple (we should have been tipped that the purple was much more bright than our previous patient!).
I have seen firsthand what computers and insurances and administrative tasks have done to our nurses. They spend more time in front of the computer to “chart” than at the bedside. In the end, the patient suffers from this dehumanization of health care.
It only takes a smile, a touch, or a look into the eyes of the patient to make them feel seen. But if our nurses and technicians are so much more absorbed by the work they “have to” do on their computer, that humanity disappears.
I shared my experience with my colleagues and friends. And they all said: "oh yeah, this is how it is now." How have we gone from a sacred relationship to a complete dehumanization of medicine? Patients are now “cases” that have close to no interaction with the medical personnel. How are we surprised that burnout is crippling the health care force if that relationship does not feed them anymore.
Once I realized how sad these interactions made me feel, I decided to do something about it. I asked questions about them to the technicians. I decided to make their day by telling them jokes. How was I in a healing role and not the other way around?! I guess I am a doctor and will remain one for the rest of my life. But even then, they needed to “chart” and clearly had no time to chit chat. There I went, onto the hard bed of the scanner, once again left alone. Once my test was over, I changed, went back to my car, and called my life partner. I needed to feel this interaction.
Most importantly, this episode strengthened my resolve in making UnabridgedMD the place to heal. I believe that patients deserve better. I believe that doctors and nurses deserve better. We ought to do better in our care. It is not about money and processes. Even if that is needed to make sure an enterprise is successful. It is about the “why” that is behind it. UnabridgedMD is about creating a bridge between the powerful western medicine advances and treatments while incorporating what I call eastern medicine principles, but that is really what empowers patients to be whole.
Join me in this new revolution. We, patients and physicians, nurses and technicians, deserve better, and UnabridgedMD is the first step towards a better system.
Come and join us. Right now we are open to rheumatology patients, and soon we expect to expand the offering to patients who want healing for their chronic conditions through acupuncture and movements. Stay in the know by following us on social media (IG, Twitter etc) and contact us to make an appointment if you think you have a rheumatologic condition (info@unabridgedmD.com).
Isabelle Amigues, MD