Compassion and Hope

There are so many memorable moments from these past few days, but the video we watched this morning in particular stands out. This is my second time watching the MedStar patient care and compassion video, but it was still so meaningful. I love the juxtaposition of what the doctor and patient are thinking about, and knowing this is an actual patient and not an actor makes it even more meaningful.

In a field that is all about compassion, I feel we so often lack compassion for those around us. When you have a difficult patient in the middle of a busy day, it can be difficult to take a moment to understand where their questions or concerns come from. We often lack compassion for those in other fields within medicine. I know as a pediatrician we often roll our eyes at the care our patients receive in emergency rooms. Like in the Michael Skolnick video, specialists often belittle the primary care doctors. Even with our co-residents, and I remember as a medical student, we often speak poorly of each other, forgetting that everyone is dealing with the same stresses we face.

What we should be doing and what I try to remind myself of, and what this conference has really reminded me is to have compassion for everyone. Children are not small adults and if you are an ER physician without my pediatrics training and are busy and overworked, how can I blame you for not knowing the intricacies of my field? How can I blame you when your training programs don’t give you enough training in pediatrics? I should not get frustrated with nurses for waking me from sleep with a question, instead I should thank them for having the patient’s best interest at heart.

I loved when Crystal told the stories of the janitor in the emergency room and Mary in the kitchen. The way she framed their jobs for them gave them a sense of value and reminded me how valuable every staff member is in ensuring the safety of our patients.

The worst part of this lack of compassion is not only that it leads to burn out, but it also leads to a dehumanization of patients. When you write someone off as a difficult mother or an anxious patient, you forget that they are complex humans who may be frightened or nervous or just so unsure of what is to come.

I wish that I worked fewer hours, or got more sleep, so that every day I could walk into work positive and excited and ready to deploy my compassion – but the reality of duty hours and feeling overworked in residency is not going to change overnight. But now at least I have the memories of this conference, the new friends I have made, and the feeling of empowerment to make small, incremental changes that will hopefully snowball into larger changes – maybe not for me, but at least for future residents. At least now I can walk in to work each day with hope that there is a better and safer future ahead of us.