David Bornstein did a real nice job in his New York Times column, Medicine’s Search for Meaning. He partly captures what it is like to walk in our shoes. This is not a pity party for doctors. It is a limited look at some of the stuff that tears us up inside. He explains nicely the damage we have to absorb to get to the pinnacle of our careers only to see it fall apart due to burnout. He then goes on to discuss a course called “A Healer’s Art” which really seems pretty intriguing.
Here is how it described:
The Healer’s Art is predicated on the idea that medicine is an ancient lineage that draws its strength from its core values: compassion, service, reverence for life and harmlessness. When students and doctors connect to these values in a community, they derive meaning and strength, and can “immunize” themselves against the assaults of the medical curriculum and even the health care system itself.
So, why isn’t this kind of thing more accepted? I mean the description above could be described as Authentic Medicine. The answer lies in loss of autonomy. The problem is that physicians have none. Many of us wish we go back to the time where we could connect with patients more. That is so far behind us now that is laughable.
So no matter how much a course like this may make the doctors think they are “immunized against the health care system” they will be reminded of it the first day they are back in the clinic. They will be reminded of it every time they rush through a patient visit who has 5 issues to be discussed in a ten minute appointment. They will be reminded of it every time an administrator puts a new and useless mandate in place. They will be reminded of it every time they get bogged down in a bloated EMR chart. And on and on.
Pretty soon all the good will of the course is forgotten as the stress of the job comes right back. You see, the easiest part of the job and the most fun part of the job is actually seeing and treating the patients. Unfortunately, it is the unbelievable amount of bureaucratic drag that tears it down to a point where everybody wants to quit.
Do you think I am wrong? Bornstein goes on to say the following:
However, if hospital administrators are going to allow doctors to cut back on “productive” activities so they can take time to focus on self-care, he adds, “We’ll need to provide hard evidence for people making financial decisions that this is a good investment.”
Hospital administrators allow? He makes this statement so matter of fact that he ignores the obvious. Hospital administrators have to allow us to heal ourselves? That, my friends, is what is really wrong with heath care.
Doug Farrago is a family physician who blogs at Authentic Medicine.