Thursday, August 5, 2010

It Is A Privilege To Be A Physician

It is all too easy, these days, to complain about a physicians' lot--especially in primary care.  We are always pressed for time.  Reimbursement is insufficient.  Insurance company billing forms and prior authorizations are ridiculous.  We put in long hours away from friends and families and never seem to get ahead.  In primary care, we see colleagues in other specialties spend less time in the office, keep more friendly hours, and came away with better pay.  There are some days when one feels it would be a better option to be anything but a physician.

Then you read things like this speech by Donald Berwick, who was recently appointed to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).  There are some medically-related writings out there that are inspirational, insightful and help keep things in focus.  Dr. Berwick's speech is one of these writings.

I am not going to say much more, except to urge you to take the time to read the transcript linked above.  It will only take a few moments, and will make a lasting impact.  Whether in the medical field or a patient, this is moving and reminds us of key facts: the focus of health care and health care encounters should be on the patient's wellness, and that we are privileged as physicians to be given the opportunity to work with patients and to help them in their times of need. 

"What is at stake here may seem a small thing in the face of the enormous health care world you have joined.   It is as a nickel to the $2.6 trillion industry.  But that small thing is what matters.  I will tell you: it is all that matters.  All that matters is the person.  The person.  The individual.  The patient.  The poet.  The lover.  The adventurer.  The frightened soul.  The wondering mind.  The learned mind.  The Husband.  The Wife.  The Son.  The Daughter. 
[...] Those who suffer need you to be something more than a doctor; they need you to be a healer.  And, to become a healer, you must do something even more difficult than putting your white coat on.  You must take your white coat off.  You must recover, embrace, and treasure the memory of your shared, frail humanity--of the dignity in each and every soul.  When you take off that white coat in the sacred presence of those for whom you will care--in the sacred presence of people just like you--when you take off that white coat, and, tower not over them, but join those you serve, you become a healer in a world of fear and fragmentation, and "aching" world...that has never needed healing more."


Anne Marie said...

Thank you very much for sharing this. It's great to meet another family doctor online. I haven't agreed with everything I have read by Don Berwick (I'm thinking of a paper in Health Affiars last year), but I do agree with this.

mark said...

I think I know the paper you're referring to, but haven't read it yet. I hope to get to it; someone else recommended it as a positive.

Thanks for finding this blog. The interweb can be somewhat cold and lonely, so it is nice to find a kindred spirit.

Mark said...

Thank for sharing this. It says a lot about what can be achieved and done in the face of an uncaring, at times, healthcare industry.

I am reminded of a professor who said in class that those who drove the trains to the camp said "They were only following the rules" I wonder what the world would be like if the trains never left the station?

DrSnit said...

Beautiful. Thank you. I'm a sociologist and psychologist. I'm a pinko commie scholar who thinks the whole world needs healthcare... But THIS cuts it down to PEOPLE BEING PEOPLE because in the end we're all living and dying together and loving together. Without regard for politics or anything else... (even though that all mixes in sadly)...

Thank you.... necessary share.

Medschoolboy 88 said...

I just found your blog so I am reading your old posts. I am in the middle of applying to medical schools but I hope to get accepted in one and become a primary care physician serving the underserved population in NE. I currently work in a community health center so most of our population lacks medical insurance, as well as other bio-psycho-socioeconomic barriers. I have enjoyed all of your posts so far.