The inability to savour and cherish the doctor-patient relationship perhaps lies at the crux of the ailments that have afflicted the modern doctor.
In the past, the maximum filtering in education was carried out at the ground level. This perhaps enabled students to be steered towards career domains that they had greater inclination to. Today, such filtering is absent at the school level. Also, the number of private medical colleges are ever expanding. As a consequence, we have a surplus of young doctors passing out. And yet, there is no channeling of these doctors towards rural and government sectors, where services are most needed. Also, since these medical graduates from private medical colleges are largely from the higher socioeconomic strata, their aspirations almost always revolve around urban and elite jobs.
This surplus generates a need for further qualifying exams, wherein young doctors are compelled to write endless competitive exams, specializing and super-specializing- a process that has no end. They are forever on the move, with one foot resting into the future. Where then, do they have the time or space to savour a doctor-patient relationship? They never really settle, and by the time they attain a certain career stability, they have been stripped off the last vestiges of human essence. They find themselves robbed of the true meaning of their lives. This is the sad story of a doctor’s life today. Unless young doctors wake up to this fact, and refuse to be swept away by this overpowering tide of market-driven forces, they shall lose hold on the actual path of their lives, and end up as victims of the system.
Perhaps it is the need of the hour to slow down. When one takes up the medical profession, one must understand and accept that a doctor’s journey is a slow process of ascent, sometimes spanning a lifetime. It may be worthwhile spending some time working in a small hospital or a clinic, without setting any immediate goals. Ideally, in a rural setting where there is greater exposure to life. Just so as to get a feel of the profession. Allow oneself to experience its joys and pains- at the ground level. That is when one is able to hear one’s inner voices. There is nothing that can provide better guidance than one’s own instincts. It may be worthwhile taking up an apprenticeship under a doctor that one looks up to. It may be worthwhile working as a resident in a field that one has a liking to, just to get a feel of it.
It is only when one exposes oneself to a domain at the ground level that one can rise up to the role that is demanded of oneself in that domain, as one steps into higher levels of hierarchy.
Work in a ward. Do everything. Be a doctor, be a nurse, be a pharmacist, be a lab technician, be a clerk. Be a human being. Talk to your patient. Talk to your peers and to all the staff involved in the care of your patient. Talk about your patient’s condition, talk about life. It doesn’t hurt to crack a few jokes. Liven up the place. After all, a hospital is a place where there is so much suffering. Bring a little optimism and happiness into this suffering. Communicate and coordinate between members of your team and give your highest involvement. Make things easy for people. Make it a place where your patients and peers are eager to see you and look forward to your presence! And slowly, you will see the light within!
A little light on this through a personal journey:
A few more instances of the doctor-patient relationship: