The Way We’ve Always Done It

Most of this post is a summary of what Mr. John Nance presented in our morning session. These are the highlights of his discussion that deeply resonated with me that I believe will stay with me and help fuel my motivation to make change in our medical culture.

John Nance stated “the most dangerous phrase in medicine is ‘this is the way we’ve always done it.'” He went on to say medicine is not solely a profession, but instead, it “is a calling wrapped around a profession with a purpose of service to humanity.” How eloquently and beautifully worded! Instead of cowering away from the charge we’ve all been given to tackle this mountain (pardon the pun) of a problem, we should enter our callings head-on with power and confidence.

For me, this means being a leader as a physician, but not in the way physicians are traditionally thought of as leaders. No longer is there a culture of “what the doctor says goes.” No longer is the physician riding horseback to a prairie home armed with nothing but his/her black bag and set of acquired knowledge and skill that he/she can only hope will be adequate to treat their ailing patient bedside. But in many ways, this is how our system trains us. In many ways, we are still trained to memorize ALL of the drugs, ALL of the adverse effects, ALL of the details of ALL of the disease processes… but why? Why don’t we change the very core of medical education to embrace the technological advances we have made in nearly every other industry? Why don’t we train our medical professionals in a way that utilizes technology to empower the healthcare provider and not simply provide a means to keep medical records? We must change our systems to incorporate teamwork, encourage the utilization of technology, and to reframe the entire medical hieracrhy.

Admittedly, change is tough. For all parties involved. To tackle that issue, we must first realize and define patient-centered care. This cannot be rooted in patient comfort alone. While pretty hospital lobbies and soothing waterfalls in the waiting areas are nice, they don’t provide medical care. While comfy beds and plasma TVs in every patient room makes your hospital stay more like a spa visit, it isn’t solving the problem of intense patient care shortages nationwide. True patient-centered care occurs when the patient is the CENTER of what you do and EVERYTHING you do is secondary to that calling. That includes money, insurance, emotion, time, etc. The medical culture must shift to make patient safety and patient-centered care a core principle instead of merely a priority.

Today was a bit overwhelming to me emotions-wise. I will try to touch on that a bit tomorrow so I don’t make this post too lengthy! And if I’m honest, I’m a bit hesitant to review my notes from today. They are ridden with impassioned statements detailing my horror with the status quo and the acceptance of injustice in medical care. So, for the sake of controlling my heart rate right before bed, I’m going to call it a night!