Poking Fun at My Patients to create an environment that feels at least a little normal
“I joke around with my patients to create an environment that feels at least a little normal in the craziness of their disease, so they can focus on living, not dying.”
Certain aspects of medical school, like learning the basics of normal and abnormal organ function, or rotating onto specialty services as mini-apprenticeships to recognize disease and treat it, haven’t changed much in 100 years of medical education.
What has changed is the emphasis on communicating with patients, which includes understanding how social and cultural factors and life circumstances can influence everything from disease occurrence to medication compliance. This is a good thing.
Leukemia doesn’t read a person’s tax returns, and my patients run the gamut. In the same morning recently, I saw a Russian oligarch who comes for visits in his private jet and a 20-year-old whose leukemia diagnosis kept him from serving jail time, and who catches the Regional Transit Authority bus for his appointments. I need to have insight into their lives outside my stark exam room to appreciate how their environments will affect the care plans we develop.
We also learn how patients react to illness, and how a diagnosis like cancer can dramatically alter a family’s landscape, or how a person defines herself.
See on well.blogs.nytimes.com
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