Thursday, January 26, 2012

Humanism in Medicine (Probably just part one)

I started my "post-decision" volunteering by volunteering in an ER. It was a small, local hospital in the suburbs and for the most part, I felt like I was in the way. I was only there for about two months before I had to take a leave of absence for classes, but the experience was such that I did not elect to go back.

Instead, I decided to become a certified EMT and volunteer with a local ambulance service. This experience has been much more productive, I don't feel like I'm in the way, and I'm learning a ton of stuff. In fact, I generally can't wait until EMS-day and wish I could find a way to fit it in more than once a week.

Much as I really enjoy my volunteer experience, I had a call the other day that really drove home a significant point for me. I've literally spent years watching medical dramas, reading med-student books, blogs, etc, and I've always thought the same thing... "Gee, some of them really dehumanize their patients and catalogue them as nothing more than procedures... that's totally not going to happen to me!"

Well. It did. It's hard not to get caught up in the moment. It's extremely difficult not to get excited that I got to perform such and such a procedure for the first time. And the capstone on all of that is that it's even harder to remember that this is someone's father, mother, grandmother, sister, loved one... that is going through a very scary medical crisis.

I know that I cannot allow every single patient experience to affect me so profoundly or access my emotional bank... but I'm going to have to find a way to keep the human aspect within sight. I also understand that learning procedures today will help me become a better clinician, will help me save people down the line, and will ultimately be good for me and everyone I come in contact with... but that doesn't mean that I have to reduce people down to an intubation, or a successful blood pressure check.

This experience is uniquely mine, but it is not mine uniquely. I imagine the vast majority of clinicians ahead of me (and those who will come after) have struggled with this issue and found a way to muddle through. I'm going to have to do the same thing.

I am nearly ashamed to admit that I didn't think this would be an issue for me. I honestly thought that because I was thoughtfully considering the human aspect of medicine that I wouldn't have to have this little heart-to-heart with myself. Turns out this was just one more thing I was going to have to experience before I'd truly know how I'd react.

1 comment:

  1. I honestly think it is powerful in that you recognized it before it became a "problem." I remember during my EMT class when my instructor told us that in order for us to get through some of the medical emergencies we were going to come in contact with, that we would have to simply look at the person as a medical emergency needing treatment. Not to see the arm as a human arm, but a arm needing stitches, etc. I thought that was pretty inhumane and said I would never do that, but found myself chanting those very words when I saw someone's limbs detached from the body. I felt bad, but I understood then what he meant and it wasn't to be purposely inhumane, but as a defense mechanism so it doesn't mess with your head by affecting you emotionally. Plus as he said, it's clear we care about man kind otherwise we wouldn't be going into the medical field. SO I do applaud you for recognizing it before it became a way of life, a way of thinking.