In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we know that our patients come in seeking relief from various ailments. However, I had a powerful reminder that being a doctor is about more than just identifying and treating medical conditions—it’s about getting to know and treating the individual who is suffering from those symptoms.
I have known Lynn* (not her real name) for more than 10 years. I’ve treated her lower extremity ailments for years, including having done surgery on both feet.
Today, she came for an annual check-up of her prescription orthotics; however, I could tell from her demeanor that her mind was somewhere else.
I went through some small talk about the holidays while doing a cursory up and down non-verbal assessment, and then completed my examination, which turned out to be normal. However, there was a tone in her answers that prompted me to just ask, “are you OK?”
As physicians, we are trained to analyze symptoms, order tests, and prescribe treatments; however, true relationship medicine extends beyond a clinical checklist. It involves taking the time to understand the whole picture of the patient – their fears, hopes, and the context of their lives, especially during challenging times like the holidays.
The patient I saw today is a vivid example of the complex intersection between health and personal life. It doesn’t matter what specialty you practice, when a patient comes in, they are seeking relief; however, as our conversation unfolded, it became apparent that it was not a physical ailment but an emotional one and she just needed to be healed. The holiday season was adding additional struggles. This is where relationship medicine takes center stage – acknowledging and addressing the emotional well-being of the patient alongside their physical health.
As physicians, we are trained to analyze symptoms, order tests, and prescribe treatments; however, true relationship medicine extends beyond a clinical checklist. Click To Tweet
Building trust and rapport with patients is a fundamental aspect of relationship medicine. It involves active listening and showing empathy, especially when patients share personal challenges. Trust is the bedrock of any meaningful doctor-patient relationship.
There is no pill, there is no protocol and sometimes it’s not even about medical expertise, but it is about demonstrating genuine concern for the patient’s well-being and caring.
During the holidays, when emotions run high, patients often need to trust that their doctor sees them as more than a medical case – that they are valued individuals whose struggles are acknowledged and respected.
Today’s encounter highlighted the importance of open communication in understanding the patient’s emotional state.
When patients feel heard and understood, it not only enhances the doctor-patient relationship but also contributes to a more comprehensive and effective treatment plan. For Lynn, she just needed to talk through her situation. It’s been hard since her spouse passed and the holidays can become lonely and isolated. I was able to talk things through and realize that she needed some spiritual counseling and connected her to that individual.
I got a text back this evening with a smile emoji.
When patients feel heard and understood, it not only enhances the doctor-patient relationship but also contributes to a more comprehensive and effective treatment plan. Click To Tweet
As physicians, our role extends beyond the examination room. It’s about recognizing and addressing the emotional well-being of our patients, fostering trust, and creating a space where open communication can thrive.
Ultimately, it is in these moments that we fulfill the true essence of being a doctor – not just healers of bodies, but caretakers of souls during the most challenging times.
In other words, you’ve got to dive in and actually do the work – no prescription needed – but totally worth the commitment!