Peter Nicks: A letter from a patient to his doctor

I am watching a fragment of a seemingly disoriented man in a hospital bed with a smile on his face. This is a somewhat contradictory image. “Why does he have a smile on his face?” I wonder… “This is my first time in a hospital”, he says with a glimpse of disbelief in his eyes. The doctor then accordingly congratulates him on this fact while images of him running to the rescue of others flash by.

Impressive how a short trailer can outline the healthcare problem in America so clearly. You feel the despair in patients eyes, you feel the powerlessness of the one doctor that is present. Peter Nicks’ words add to the understanding of the problem: “In the waiting room of a public hospital, it is often a competition for attention”. He basically describes it as a battlefield where, if you are assertive you won’t be helped. Most of these people are very ill and according to Dutch standards they should be given medical care, no matter the cost, whether insured or not. This clearly illustrates the crisis in these hospitals.

With the documentary the waiting room, Peter Nicks puts a human face on this problem and show implicitly what has to be changed. The movie is meant to be the handle of a wheel. A handle with the voices of patients, serving as an inspiration, that aggregate and effect the wheel of policy making in healthcare. Documenting the hearts and minds of these patients might get other patients, all over the world, more involved in their own story and their own faith. Peter Nicks’ passion for documenting is clearly translated when he says that he wants to put the power of the camera in the patient’s hands. Inspired by the stories of his wife and the footage he shot, he thinks that this might actually influence the experience of patients with illness and healthcare. Because if you talk about your illness, share emotions that come with it and share them with others, your experience changes for the better. He has seen this play out live and I hope I can experience the same feeling when watching his movie in the theatre. We as humans are social beings, with an unavoidable capability to be empathic. This causes that we depend on our social environment in order to survive. Through the use of cameras and movies, we can extend this social environment and learn from it to improve our policy making.

A favourite quote of mine comes to mind: “the golden rule: whoever has the gold makes the rules”. I wonder if, for once, the patient can be  given the gold because they are the ones that really deserve it.


Peter Nicks

A blog by Anke Murillo Oosterwijk