November 15, 2012
On Thursdays, the Daily Voice showcases selected Thursday Morning Memos, reflective essays about clinical experiences written by faculty, alumni, residents and students of the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health and, occasionally, contributors from other departments. Thursday Morning Memos is UMass Medical School’s homegrown version of narrative medicine, in which the authors process their experiences through writing. To learn more, visit: http://www.umassmed.edu/news/articles/2011/personal_stories.aspx.
Kathy Maier, MD, a graduate of Barre Family Health Center now practicing at Sterling Family Medicine, shares her thoughts about her patient "George." They remind me that we are always learning from our "Georges." A great lesson for our learners and a reminder to the rest of us: lifelong learning really is lifelong.—Hugh Silk, MD
Learning from our patients
Time. This is something I have always struggled with. There is never enough time in the day to do everything that needs to be done.
Last year when I was still a resident, a patient taught me how to relax. I remember that day very clearly. I was running late and the patient before yelled at me for this. I remember taking it to heart and feeling more rushed. I walked into “George’s” room and he could see it on my face. I apologized for running late and he said, "Sit down and take a deep breath, relax and then we can start." I remember laughing. Who was the doctor here? Who was the patient? I remember the rest of the day went smoothly.
That day taught me to take deep breaths whenever I felt rushed. I often will teach this to my patients when they talk about feeling rushed and not having enough time. I have taken this lesson to my personal life as well. And have found I feel less rushed all the time. It is not easy to relax. But, I think of George and it makes it easier for me.
He taught me another lesson that day: There is a lot we can learn from our patients. I find myself often asking patients questions about alternative medicines they have tried, coping techniques they use. I then do some research on them myself and, if appropriate, have used them in my practice for my other patients. I am amazed by some things my patients know or have heard of that I just haven’t.
Most of all, that day taught me how one patient can really make or break a day. I have learned from this that I can’t let the angry patients get to me, that most patients understand, and that I need to not let the angry patients affect my whole day. This has really helped me deal with difficult patients and has made it easier for me.
I am so thankful for the lessons George taught me that day. It has given me a different approach to patient care and just time in general. I feel George has made me a better doctor because of his approach to my tardiness. Instead of getting angry, he saw a busy doctor who needed a rest. And for that I will always be grateful.