This month’s blog will be a continuation of last month’s discussion, the discussion in regards to every individual being their own healthcare advocate. I started off this discussion by describing two different perspectives, two different roles that are intimately involved in this process. I then went on to explain one of those roles, the role of the healer, knowing that with this month’s blog, the following discussion, I would be explaining the role of the patient.
As stated in last month’s piece, I understand completely that the role of the healer is one of great privilege and influence. Before any responsibility can be taken on by the patient, it is important the healer understand their place, it is important the healer know that they have a massive and profound effect on the patient’s life in a way no other entity does.
I also mentioned that the requirements of the healer, and the fact that they hold a certain advantage over the patient, amount to a major point of trust and vulnerability between two people. The expectation of the healer should be one of extreme decency and care. They have the patient at a disadvantage, and it is incumbent on them to realize this power dynamic, and not to abuse or mistreat it.
With all that being said, I will explain what I see as the role of the patient, the duty each individual has in being involved in their own care. Before I begin, know that I tend to lean a very specific way in regards to the role of the patient, I tend to have very strong expectations as to what the patient should or shouldn’t be doing. This position I have comes from being a patient myself. It comes from going through the cycle of vulnerability and lack of knowledge, and trying to be stronger after the process is over then before it started. It comes from a strong sense of self responsibility, before I look to others with expectations I ensure I have fulfilled my duty in this process.
The best way I can think to explain this perspective is with a personal story, in an attempt to possibly show where my worldview originates in this matter. As I had stated in the previous blog, I have had several injuries to my knees, my right one specifically, and spent much time from when I was 24 to 27 trying to get back on my feet and feel physically whole again.
With two torn ACL’s and three surgeries because of it, I spent much time in doctor’s offices discussing treatment plans, surgical expectations, and expected outcomes. There was one doctor’s visit I will site specially, for it opened my eyes to something I realized I took for granted, something I felt was an obvious thing to do, only to see for many it was not.
I went to see an orthopedic specialist, the gentleman that was going to perform the operation, as part of a pre-surgical checkup. With me was a woman I had been dating for several months and she accompanied me into the patient room and sat next to me when the doctor finally came in. She didn’t say anything and was merely there for support. She listened as I asked the doctor a whole list of questions I had thought of in regards to my knee, expectations, timeline, possible complications, and any other thing I could possibly think of. The doctor was more than willing to explain anything to me I needed to hear, with our meeting eventually coming to an end along with my appointment.
As we left the orthopedic office, the woman I was with turned to me and stated she was surprised by all the questions I had asked, and was somewhat impressed by the fact I had gone into so much detail in some of them. For a moment I felt a bit prideful, as if I was doing something others were not. Then I became a bit discouraged, for I realized that I actually was doing something others were not, and that was taking an active and involved approached to my own healthcare.
I felt a bit confused, for to me it makes perfect sense to ask questions, to be inquisitive, or just in general to be curious as to what is going to happen. Not only that, I was being a bit skeptical. Not in a way that was disrespectful of the doctor or his abilities, but in a manner that followed a quote made famous by Ronald Reagan, trust but verify.
I had full trust the doctor I was seeing was competent, and I also knew that I was very blessed to be able to even receive this medical treatment or be under this man’s care. My life would be very different with the help this man was set to provide. But the fact is, it wasn’t his body, it wasn’t his life going under the knife and it wasn’t his life being affected by another person’s choices. The outcome of this process was completely out of my hands. So of course I had questions, of course this doctor was going to hear every little insecurity, curiosity, or concern I had in regards to this whole process. At the very least it is what I am owed if I am to trust this doctor will do a good job.
Not everyone thinks this way though, and not everyone demands from their healthcare providers the same way I do. Some demand to little, and seem very uninvolved in their own healthcare, seemingly complacent, as if they have no control or say as to what is to happen. Others seem to demand too much, as if they are out of touch with how this whole process works. We all die, and healthcare is essentially meant to prolong that death, if possible, but it’s not meant to have all the answers or find all the cures.
To some degree I understand why some may feel a lack of control. I may have a bit more going for me in terms of general knowledge and understanding, which provides me a level of comfort in discussing these matters. However I do not think this summarizes the main issue, I do not think most of us lack involvement because we are not as knowledgeable.
To me, the biggest and most obvious issue in regards to people being their own advocates is expectations. Many of us seem to think that only the healer needs to be involved in the care being provided, as if the patient needs no active involvement in their own healing. To me it is the opposite. The patient is the first one involved in their care. They are the first ones to be expected to be a part of the process.
I was surprised with the woman I was dating at the time being so impressed by my questions. Why would you not ask questions, why would you not seek out every detail and smooth out every corner of the care you are looking to receive?
I feel many of us look to the world of healthcare with a hand out, as if we are not as much of the equation to good health as medical treatments and healthcare professionals are. At first glance I do not understand this. It is your body and it is your life, the first person in this equation is you. You have to be inquisitive for answers, you have to mindful of your choices in regards to your health and you have to seek out the appropriate avenues to be the best person you can be. All of that happens way before you ever see a healer or receive treatment. Again, why should the healer care if you do not?
Essentially what I am arguing for is a more involved process, where the patient makes it a priority, a part of their everyday life, to seek better results for themselves through their own ambition. This mentality makes the healthcare system a tool, not an expectation, which the patient can then use for the betterment of their lives.Here at Smiling Panda, we hope that our product is something you chose to use because it helps you, because in your active involvement of your care you found our product to do good for you. But this is not just to sell shirts or make a profit taking over the world of clothing. We stand by our product because we are patients too, and this product is part of our decision for treatment in an ongoing disease. While we hope to have your business, we hope more to see to your soothing of an ailment, and if that soothing doesn’t come from us, we understand. We just want you to be involved in your own process. This is because
deep down we know that if you are, better patient outcomes are guaranteed.