I mentioned in my last blog how I had recently attended the Australian Integrative Medicine Association (AIMA) conference at the Gold Coast. It was an extremely insightful conference and one presenter in particular stood out to me for a very special reason. This person was full of love.
Dr Robin Youngson is a consultant anaesthetist who has seen the worst of the worst. If you don’t already know, anaesthetists are the doctors that put you to sleep in an operation. This may seem like an easy job, but the reality is that whenever a patient has a cardiac arrest and could potentially die at any moment, the anaesthetists are the first people to step in and are the ones in charge.
As such, they need to have an amazing ability to stay calm under pressure, it comes with the territory. However, I was impressed with Dr Youngson for a very different reason.
You see, Dr Youngson (like me, several years ago), had enough of the medical system. He was quite disillusioned at seeing doctors and nurses go about their jobs in very robotic fashion and not really connecting with patients. Connection took too much time.
Patients were often dehumanized, as numbers or diseases, where you would occasionally hear comments like “Its your turn to feed the pneumonia in Bed 7” or “the prostate cancer patient in Room 5 needs a new catheter”.
Whilst most doctors I know are very nice and do the best thing for patients, I could really relate to what Dr Youngson was saying. It’s a tough working environment at the best of times.
I too used to be so busy that I had no time to truly connect with patients. I also feared that if I did get into an emotional conversation, I too would become emotional, or open a can of worms that I did not have time for.
On the flip side, patients wanted doctors that genuinely cared for them or at least appeared to care. The hospital environment can be quite sterile and mechanical already, combine that with sterile and mechanical staff and it becomes an environment that is not conducive for healing.
This is obviously a widespread issue and one that deserves attention but how can it be fixed and is there a solution that could even possibly be implemented?
Well, here’s where Dr Youngson’s work comes in. He recommends that doctors and nurses need to bring LOVE back into their jobs. Feeling love and compassion actually makes patients feel more cared for and improves their ability to recover better. Suprisingly, it also helps doctors and nurses love their jobs, reduce stress levels and maintain their wellbeing.
In his book, ‘Time to Care’, which I recommend you read if you are a health professional, Dr Youngson suggests many simple tips to help bring positive psychology into the profession. By doing so, patients feel happier, and so do doctors and nurses.
He also suggests that by expressing compassion and positive energy, patients actually take up less time from busy health professionals and there is a less of risk of complaints or legal action should anything go wrong.
I am only halfway through Dr Youngson’s book but already there are some profound insights. The beauty of his teachings also is that they are incredibly simple tips that can make huge differences in the hearts and minds of patients and doctors; from an employer perspective, they also help with retaining talented staff.
Dr Youngson’s emphasizes very simple and practical tips in ‘Time to Care’. He calls them Tiny Acts of Loving Kindness (TALK). He also quotes an article in a prestigious medical journal about ‘Etiquette-Based Medicine’ in which the author MW Kahn recommends health care professionals observe the following when interacting with hospital patients:
- Ask permission to enter the patient’s room and wait for an answer
- Introduce yourself, show ID badge
- Shake hands
- Sit down. Smile if appropriate
- Briefly explain your role in the team
- Ask the patient how he or she is feeling about the hospital
Have you ever had a good or bad hospital experience? Were any of these 6 recommendations observed?