Following on the trend of my last reading list book, In Shock is written by a physician who finds herself in the position of a patient. Unfortunately for Dr. Awdish, she is a critical patient who actually has an out-of-body experience as she codes during emergency surgery.
Following her surgery, the book covers her excruciating recovery from an unknown disease wreaking havoc on her body. This unknown disease cost her her unborn child. While her doctors and nurses struggled for answers, they took out their confusion and frustrations on her. Dr. Awdish became intimately aware of the manifestations of the wall many physicians put up to “be better doctors.”
My favorite habit that she points out is the power of words. Physicians are taught to empathize, but at the same time, cannot take a patient’s pain as their own. Emotionally compromised doctors are not good doctors. Unfortunately, this leads to bad habits. We make macabre jokes and say insensitive or flippant comments that ultimately harm our patients.
One of the phrases she pointed out as harmful was “You kept trying to die on us.” It seems harmless. The physician tries to seem lighthearted about a serious matter. Unfortunately, Dr. Awdish took these words to heart. She felt physicians blamed her for being sick and coding. I know I have said this phrase, maybe not to patients, but definitely when discussing patients with my providers.
The common theme throughout her book is the way that doctors speak to their patients. Now she has made a career of teaching healthcare professionals to watch their words, to think before they speak. I, for one, would love to attend one of her sessions.
Patients trust doctors they can connect with. It’s important to acknowledge their feelings and put them at ease, while acknowledging a patient’s goals and desires. This must be balanced with medical necessity and treatment. It’s difficult, but we’re not becoming doctors because it’s easy.
Have you said any of the phrases that Dr. Awdish condemns? Have you experienced burn-out that manifests itself in blaming patients or venting to them? Let me know how you feel about this book. Is Dr. Awdish right? What changes do you need to make in speaking to patients?