In medical training, for better or worse, we are trained to put our patients’ needs above our own. Whether you are tired, or your back hurts, you finish the surgery; you complete the rounds.
To some extent, the biggest value of our medical training isn’t the facts and methodologies. It’s that we’re taught to be true physicians (or true nurses, true therapists, or true aides). We’re taught to be scientists, artists, and caregivers in equal measure — we’re taught to be the ultimate professionals.
But this exquisite professionalism can go too far, especially when it is combined with the current climate of productivity obsession. The high principle of the medical training becomes combined with the drive to cut costs and produce more. And then the dominant narrative is that providers need to produce more, always do more... the more they subsume their own needs to the needs of their patient, the better.
But two new studies made me stop and question whether anyone is benefitting from this extreme. This study shows that nurses suffer depression at twice the rate of the general population. As Fierce Healthcare reports, “The attitude that "nurses don't crack" and a culture of constantly hiding one's emotions only ends up causing the problems of depression and anxiety to multiply and in the end can compromise patient safety and drive good nurses out of the profession.” That’s distressing in itself. But further studies show that nurses suffering from depression or burnout are more likely to make a medical error.
Our takeaway? There really isn’t a separation between who you are as a human being, and who you are as a healthcare provider. And that’s a good thing. Medicine is an art, a science, and a calling. And for us to be fully present for our patients, we need to be fully present with our whole selves. Which means we need to have our needs as people met.
Similarly, our patients are people with lives outside of their medical condition. And for us to fully minister to their needs, we need to understand the context within which they live... emotionally, societally, financially, physically, and spiritually.
It’s been shown that when we feel isolated — like when we don’t connect with our colleagues — we experience anxiety and depression. And studies are showing that when we don’t feel connected with out patients, our burnout increases.
Sure, perhaps it would be better if we could return to a different era of medicine, one in which healthcare providers had the time and support to connect with each other and slow the pace of care.
But realistically, the pace of medicine may stay as relentless as it is. And so we must use tools that allow us to connect with each other within the constraints we have, like telemedicine-based healthcare collaboration, to support ourselves — and each other.
To feel more connected with your colleagues, try iClickCare for free, from the App Store: