My Family’s Experience with Being Sick & How to Heal Our Medical System By Starting with Doctors!
I’ve decided to take a risk and share my family’s story with our medical system, because I feel like it’s so important to talk about so we can change things for a brighter and more healing future of Medicine, my beloved profession! It’s a controversial topic, especially for us in the medical profession because we are trained to believe that we should be able to be ‘superhuman’ and go without sleep, exercise, nutrition and sacrifice all in the service of our patients. Unfortunately, this leads to a medical system that often falls short, because how can you be a healer when you are not allowed to heal yourself?
My Dad fell ill a year and a half ago and has been in and out of hospital ever since, each time with a new problem just as the last one is getting better. Most recently, after a minor procedure, he was sent home from hospital, only to have severe pain and complications that bought him back every 3 DAYS to the emergency dept for a full month–each time my Mum would bring him back and they would experience the same thing–waiting for hours upon hours to be seen in severe discomfort, only to be told that there was nothing ‘acute’ wrong and sent home and getting weaker and more frustrated with each visit. Although relieved that nothing life-threatening was happening to him, he and my mother experienced a complete lack of emotional connection and empathy for the suffering they were experiencing and the fear of not knowing what was wrong. Usually, these problems are taken to the family doctor but his was booked up for weeks in advance, and had to tell my parents to go to the ER if they were worried about a serious problem, as same day appointments were next to impossible.
Every visit to the hospital they experienced a complete lack of compassion and instead were faced with overwhelmed, overworked, burned out doctors and staff, just trying to survive and do the best they could on severe lack of sleep and in a high-pressure work environment that is anything BUT healing for both the patients and hospital staff. On one visit, they were seen by a resident, who was actually empathetic towards their situation but said that because my Dad didn’t fit into a particular algorithm she was not allowed to take action. This resident hadn’t been to sleep for almost 30 hours, and to her eternal credit, still took 10 minutes to talk to my Mum and offer what comfort she could, for which my Mum was very grateful.
My parents said they felt like they had been thrown into a completely foreign and almost ‘robotic’ like system of acute disease management that focused on algorithms and lab values to make decisions–all with good intentions but also completely lacking in any ‘soft skills,’ empathy or relieving of suffering due to lack of time and being overwhelmed with very sick patients who all needed to be seen. The thing is–that’s what an ER has to be–it’s meant for life-threatening emergencies but there must be a more humane way of helping people access that other ‘healing’ part of medicine if no acute problem can be found, even in our very overwhelmed hospital system.
Thankfully, my Dad is on the road to recovery after mobilizing an amazing home nursing team to get him through, and start the healing process. The whole experience was completely eye-opening as to the limitations of modern medicine, mainly the lack of healing and those ‘soft skills’ like helping people to cope emotionally and physically with chronic health problems when they come to the hospital at the end of their emotional reserves!
I don’t pretend to have the perfect answer, but know it has to start with healing doctors and nurses–our healers–first so they can bring back the healing into our medical system and are not bullied by the current institution into working crazy hours without sleep and sacrificing their lives outside the hospital.
Healing is often totally separate from curing, and it’s not something I learned in medical school. In fact, I had to do something different to the norm to discover my inner healer after being pushed through the medical education system which tends to ‘squeeze’ the healer out of doctors.
Even when there is no ‘cure’ Healing is ALWAYS possible, even in the face of a terminal illness because healing is not just a physical thing. And many people who end up as repeat visitors to the emergency department need a good dose of healing too–often this is the most important thing they need if no acute medical issue can be solved then and there.
This is the lesson that being an Integrative Medicine Doc has taught me, and of the importance of MindBody medicine, like meditation and yoga–which ANYONE can do–no matter what their physical or mental challenges, to help relieve suffering and find peace despite facing huge medical challenges that have often have no cure.
So, my message is this: In order to change our system and get our Healers back, we need to heal each other, doctors, nurses and medical professionals too! It is possible and amazing things happen when doctors start to heal themselves. Yoga, meditation and learning how to say no to crazy work hours is the way to creating change for our generation so we can all be healthier, happier and lead fulfilled balanced lives free from fear!
Yours In health,
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