What happened to the art of medicine?

During our medical training we are taught to use evidence based medicine.  This means using the most up to date scientific research data that has been analyzed and accepted as fact.  But does this mean every patient we see fits into the evidence based medicine algorithm that we have been taught to use?

I hope not.  For this would mean we would only be following half of medicine.  The art of medicine is the other half, and is the most important.   The art of medicine can be defined as being how we apply evidence based medicine to each and every patient we see.  We are to use the evidence based algorithms solely as guidelines.  Each and every patient has to be treated as an individual.  As individuals they don’t all fit the evidence based medicine algorithms as perfectly as the guidelines require.

The art of medicine, the most important part of medicine, involves several components:

  1. Caring for patients, showing honest concern and compassion
  2. Giving patient’s time, not rushing in and out of the exam clinic room, being patient with them, having a great bedside manner
  3. Using the evidence based medicine algorithms as a guideline, as we apply them to each and every patient we see.  Understanding that every patient is an individual who has individual circumstances that affect their lives
  4. Helping every patient to acquire the best outcome they can for themselves by working with them, educating them, coming up with a mutually agreed upon plan of action

Evidence based medicine does not teach us how to apply them to the patients we see, only the art of medicine does that.  Much unlike evidence based medicine we don’t learn the art of medicine in a classroom.  We learn the art of medicine by seeing patients, one by one, year after year.  As new research comes out and the evidence based medicine algorithms change, hopefully we have refined our art of medicine skills to such a fine point that we have attained the stature of a wise mentor.

It is when we become this wise mentor who has been able to aptly combine the art of medicine with the research based evidence of medicine that we can parlay our skills to those of us who are younger, still in training and learning the skills of a medical provider.

I remember my training days and to this day I can still recall those wise mentors who played such an important role in my training.  As we teach those young, up and coming medical providers let us not forgot how to teach them to use and refine their own art of medicine.

Sharon Bahrych is a physician assistant who blogs at A PA View on Medicine.

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