Friday, June 17, 2011

What the heck was I thinking?

To be completely honest, over the course of my career, I've had a recurring question: "what the heck was I thinking when I went into primary care?"

An article, written a number of years ago, by George S. Poehlman MD, in the Journal of Family Practice, has always helped to remind me of the answer to the question. We've never met but I've read and re-read his article many times. Here are some highlights:

* the best of what our profession has to offer remains a primary care approach to health care delivery that has its foundation on the relationship of the doctor and patient.

* never forget the power of the human touch. Each gentle act of touch provides comfort to someone who has need: in addition, the act keeps us in touch with who we are-humble healers who are uniquely privileged to serve.

* always ask your patients about something that is totally nonmedical before closing out the patient encounter. You will ensure that your life's work is made up of more than simply treating disease. You will become an amateur anthropologist on whom people's stories are bestowed. This is what makes men and women of medicine wise.

* challenge yourself to prevent rather than to cure. Where there is illness, help the patient or person in need to understand the illness within the context of his or her family and beliefs. Lots of things that go wrong with the body are "no big deal," and people want to know that; and when it is "big," they need to know that, too.

* medicine allows us to participate in the lives of others, sometimes from birth, often until passing. It is an advantage and trust given to a few-and none of us can take that for granted. Be humbled by the honor.

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