Monday, November 14, 2011

The human side of medicine

---is an essential ingredient of diagnostic skill as explained in this essay by the late J. Willis Hurst. A few choice quotes:

The history-taking period is when the doctor not only obtains vital clinical information, but also has the opportunity to know the patient as a person—as a human being. This is also when patients begin to know their doctor as a person. It is during the history-taking period that patients decide if the doctor is a robot with no feeling or a caring individual...

The doctor who asks questions like an interrogating lawyer and pays little attention to a patient's answers is doomed to being a poor diagnostician, because the patient's medical history is often the doctor's best diagnostic tool. Patients should know that the doctor cares about them as persons, after the history-taking period is over...

Finally, Hurst contrasts genuine caring with mere performance where we play for points on the patient satisfaction survey:

Every action and comment made by the doctor must be genuine. Doctors must not simply memorize their actions and comments like actors do when they act in a play. Remember, patients can identify the doctor who is not sincere.

I think I need to reread this article every week before returning to the inpatient service.