A Day of Work For Us, A Life Event For Patients

Premier Pulse     April 2023

1134192644By Andre Harris, MD, chief medical officer, Atrium Medical Center

On a Sunday morning before church, I was scrolling through LinkedIn and ran across a statement that stopped me.  The post said, “A day of work for you is a life event for your patient.” Sometimes as medical professionals, we lose sight of the patient. Betty’s name gets replaced by the moniker pneumonia in 205.  The patient is reduced to their disease process.

There is a movie that came out in 1991 called The Doctor. It involved an arrogant surgeon, Jack McKee, who was emotionally detached from patients. The storyline progresses as Jack develops a life-threatening tumor.  I recall one scene when he presented for an appointment and arrogantly walked up to the desk and said, “I’m Dr. McKee, and I have an appointment.” The administrative assistant at the front desk said, “I know who you are,” and asked him to sit and wait for his appointment. He was introduced to another patient with terminal cancer through his process of becoming a patient. His interactions with her fears and doubts in the physician medical treatment process allowed him to see the inhumanity of the process. 

Medicine is a noble calling.  I use the word “calling” deliberately and with reverence.  It is a calling because, as a physician, we have been blessed with the intelligence, agility, and responsibility that this profession demands. Yet, at times, the one area we lack is the patient-centered focus that sets us apart as clinicians. Compassion, unfortunately, is not a standard issue with our medical degree. Dr. McKee became a patient and had to experience the system of which he was part of. The movie ends with him having all his medical students in a triage room. An army of nurses comes in with IVs, catheters, NG tubes, etc... and he tells the medical students to get into gowns and get ready to go through all the tests that “We order on our patients.”  AAMC would most likely frown on that extreme step, but his goal was to elicit empathy and compassion because “A day of work for us is a life event for a patient.”

Back to the April 2023 issue of Premier Pulse

Premier Health Logo