An excellent blog by Carolyn Thomas on the importance of paying attention — both by physician and patient alike.
When Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Mary O’Connorpublished her compelling essay called “The Woman Patient: Is Her Voice Heard?“, she raised some frightening questions, particularly for those of us carrying the XX chromosomes. Examples of what she calls the medical profession’s “unconscious bias” against female patients include:
- women are 22 times less likely to be referred for knee replacement surgerycompared to men presenting with the same symptoms and diagnoses
- girls on pediatric kidney transplant lists are 22% less likely to get a new kidney compared to boys
- women in their 50s and younger are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed and sent home from Emergency compared to their male counterparts of the same age presenting with comparable heart attack symptoms(1)
But perhaps the most disturbing lesson was the pervasive sense that somehow docs are just not getting…
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Walking out to the supermarket with a bag in each hand, I felt “pain” as I took a step. It was like a snap in my foot and PAIN, like a pinch – ouch! I got to the car and drove home. My foot was swollen and it hurt–especially if I put any weight on it. As soon as I put the groceries away, I called and got an appointment with the Physician’s Assistant at my doctor’s office.
(A little bit about my doctor – looking at the photo collages on her office walls, you could have cut her face out and put mine in. We had lived such similar lives – I could have matched her photo for photo. We were close in age, both first born, and I felt very connected with her. She was a good listener – I thought…)
Back to the pain in my foot…
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In this blog, As Daphne Nash highlights the great example of a physician who was thrust into unfamiliar territory due to Hurricane Sandy that gave her a renewed appreciation of what it is like for patients and their family members to navigate the “foreign land” of a healthcare system, organization, and delivery process. Excellent article and insights that when taken to heart can help all of us as caregivers in the process of optimizing healing healthcare.
Empathy is a critical personal skill and quality necessary for optimizing healing healthcare.
Daphne Nash in her blog “Empathy & the patient experience” tells the story that is too often told, namely, the lack of empathy by a caregiver providing medical assistance who increases suffering, pain, anxiety, and emotional isolation and misses the chance to be an agent of healing.
See my blog “4 Key Ingredients for Creating an Exceptional Patient Experience” in Hospital Impact for a personal story of empathy and compassion that deeply touched my mom and I at a recent cancer treatment visit.
Much is being researched and written on the subject of Physician/Nurse compassion, empathy, and care fatigue. Just a few examples on the subject from the past few months are the following:
- When Nurses Catch Compassion Fatigue, Patients Suffer
- Researcher takes on ’empathy fatigue’ in the workplace
- Association of an Educational Program in Mindful Communication With Burnout, Empathy, and Attitudes Among Primary Care Physicians
If you’re anything like me, if and when feeling fatigued, you may notice that you feel more irritable, moody, easily frustrated, less optimistic. Moreover, you may find that your ability to listen, focus, be present, give freely (without expectation of anything in return), express compassion and empathy, and the like are somewhat or even severely impaired.
As a hospital chaplain intern several years ago…