The emergency room constantly presents challenges, and physicians always have to act with urgency. Patients, on the other hand, fear diagnoses they will hear, being unprepared to deal with the consequences, let alone mustering the strength to inform their loved ones. In this chaotic and busy environment of the emergency department, healthcare professionals often overlook a core value: to facilitate healing beyond medicine.
Physicians strive to express compassion when faced with life and death matters, but doctors are human too! They suffer from many emotions their patients go through, sometimes more than their hearts can contain. On top of that, they are expected to provide care continuously, so they may reach a threshold where dying patients and crying family members seem to not affect them. The danger is physicians’ becoming “machines” lacking human emotions, consideration or care.
The importance of not losing our humanity cannot be overemphasized. Physicians are not only healthcare providers but they are leaders and health advocates. When conventional medicine fails to provide treatment, physicians have a responsibility to assure patients that they will be with them every step of the way. We are responsible for our patients’ lives from the day we take care of them. Let’s not mistake this for disregarding patient autonomy. Patients are entitled to decide for themselves, but a caring practitioner -one that listens and engages in conversation- will make the difference. Our responsibility is to make patients feel empowered. We can make a clinical difference by touching our patients beyond the physical.
Physicians must expand their perspective to see beyond emergency medicine. Conventional medicine has taught us to observe the patient for signs and symptoms but deemphasized patients’ expressions, feelings, ambitions, and dreams. Why should we see patients from just one lens? Medical students, physicians, and other healthcare professionals in the emergency department should remind themselves of perceiving a more subjective but meaningful aspect of patient care, which lies beyond the physical. True healing requires a multidisciplinary effort, including familial, environmental, and socio-economical aspects of care.
Social aspects of medicine play a crucial role and should never be neglected. Our utmost responsibility is to foster solidarity, peace, and humaneness in this world. Compassion must be the center of our every action as we concentrate on understanding the patient as a human, rather than the diseases. Physicians that mind the interconnections between medicine, emotions, and humans, make a difference.