Being thanked by a patient

Someone walked into my ER this morning (I am a day’s worth of travel south of it) and handed the triage nurse flowers and chocolate for me, to thank me for “caring so much.”

This was originally posted on Facebook and is part of my ”unsilo yourself” month of rescuing content from silos like Facebook, Quora, and Twitter.

Now, it’s nice to get recognized. But at the same time: I do not do much more than what needs doing, so how bad must this person have felt they have been treated before, to consider my conduct worthy of recognition? And is it bad that I cannot recall the case for the life of me? I am racking my brain, I have been told the diagnosis, sex, age, and status of the patient, even the day. And, still, I do not remember them. Not in the least.

I think, honestly, that this is one of the issues we have with health care these days. Patients feel like they are not being taken seriously (every single one of them is, we literally kill ourselves to make them better, we just do a piss poor job, apparently, at showing it), and patients realise that they are but blips on our radar, people we will (and have to) forget, the second they leave our care.

This was probably one of those cases that fell into a lull in the stream of patients arriving every night (I only did nights for a long time). I probably had the time to explain to them what happened. I probably had time to listen. And I probably had time to show I cared, rather than just caring and carrying on. This should not be my place. This should be the domain of GPs.

The advocacy role of GP is being eroded by a system that focuses on defensive and rapid medical intervention over lifelong care and support. We’re not healing, we’re fighting fires. This system kills nurses, specialists, and physicians. In areas where strong GP/PC physicians are the champions of their patients, there will always be a physician and a bunch of nurses who do not forget. Who will watch over procedures and, very importantly, translate “hospital” to “patient” showing them, that we do care, that we do worry about them and that they do matter.

We can do better. But for this, we have to have a cohesive and coherent medical system in which the patient is not funnelled from provider to provider but guided through it by one, strong, advocate.

This starts in policy and politics and does not end with addressing a toxic image of what makes a “good hard” nurse or physician. The patient isn’t the only one suffering from this, and we’d do well to do better, for ourselves and for our patients.