Patients place dignity and respect at the top of their list of necessities when it comes to their own healthcare. The doctor-patient relationship will continue to remain rather one-sided due to the nature of the profession. Patients seek help from doctors, and thus the advice, guidance, and knowledge flow in one main direction. However, this does not mean doctors aren’t continuously learning and being inspired by their patients as well. If you are content as a doctor and your days are filled with helping individuals, learning to listen to what your patients are saying can help you achieve success in your career. Below is a list of things your patients can teach you:
- What you do matters: The practice of medicine is an important and unique profession. It does have its challenges, although you are given the opportunity to guide individuals and give the finest care. While you may go through numerous patient files every day, every one of your patients will remember and appreciate each pleasant interaction for the rest of their lives.
- Things can change in a second: As a doctor, you are well aware illness can strike out of the blue. One minute your patient may be feeling fine and the next they may be going into cardiac arrest. It can happen to anyone at any time. It may be a cliché, but life is, in fact, short. How many times have you heard patients say, “I wish I were 30 years younger,” or, “I wish I had more time to do the things I never did,”? If anything, your patients can teach you to enjoy the little things, be happy, and have no regrets.
- Patience is a virtue: Patience is a virtue, and in the medical world, it goes both ways. Think of how many times you’ve had a sick patient wait for you because you were running late, only to see their face light up and show their appreciation that you were able to see them. Think of how many times you have sat down to talk with a patient, all the while unaware of how your guidance will impact their understanding and expectations. It is this patience that saves you time and helps you do what you do best.
- Individuals are brave and resilient: Cancer, bacterial infections, heart disease, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease—your patients put up with plenty of appalling illnesses and refuse to give up in hard times. How often have you seen your patients surrounded by friends and loved ones, still able to laugh and smile? They are the definition of courage and determination.
- Every individual is unique: Without a doubt, no two patients are alike. Just the same, no patient wants to be viewed as a list of symptoms or a disease. By recognizing each of your patients as unique individuals, you gain their trust and help them change their health for the better.
- Family is forever: Each individual in a family plays a specific role that is part of that family’s everyday functioning. The illness of one family member, even in the most stable and supportive families, disrupts the whole unit. Getting past the commotion of daily life, it is the way families come together during times of illness to support one another that reminds one of life’s greatest blessing.
- Trust and appreciation change everything: Each of your patients is truly grateful to you, no matter what. Though some may be shocked or angry when receiving bad news, they are appreciative that you took the time to see them on short notice, review their charts, and allow them to ask questions, educate them, listen to them, and so on. Trust is another term the doctor-patient relationship is built upon. When a patient seeks out your help, they are telling you they trust your judgment, experience, knowledge, and capability to manage their care. Patients tend to share the deepest part of their lives with their doctors and, in time, trust becomes mutual. You trust them to be honest and straightforward, to take charge of their health per your instructions, and, together, you become a team.
- You are a role model: As a doctor, you have the ability to educate your patients on changing their lifestyle for the better, whether through diet, exercise, weight control, or some other means. In time, the type of doctor you are begins to show with the type of patients you attract. Every patient looks up to their doctor, and why wouldn’t they? You are a healer. You have the power to focus on better health outcomes and motivate your patients to do better. Eventually, what you see in your patients will be a reflection of what you envision them to be.
- Empathy is naturally self-rewarding: Empathy is good for patients. It builds their trust in you, thus increasing their satisfaction. When patients feel they can connect with you on a higher level, they tend to have better recovery rates. Empathy is also good for you as a doctor. As patients rarely verbalize their emotional concerns, empathy can counteract this issue and help you do a better job in providing care. Predicting when a patient may be scared, thirsty, or even cold is all a part of mastering your role as a healthcare professional. It is also a proper step towards a rewarding career in the medical world.
Being a doctor can be one of the most challenging occupations, but it can also be one of the most rewarding and satisfying. You have the opportunity to do more good in just one day than most individuals do in one month. Most importantly, if you learn to listen to what your patients have to say early on, you will likely learn how to interact with them in ways that show you genuinely care for them. It is a good starting point towards determining a patient’s true diagnosis, even when they are not speaking directly to you.