‘I have nothing but respect for almost every doctor I have come across. Most just want to cut through the bullshit and treat their patients right.’ A random message on twitter that I retweet with conviction.
Because those are the doctors that I usually meet: they are all people who want to do a good job, who are trained healers and who put their heart and soul into curing people. They are also professionals, who keep wanting to improve by questioning their own performance and attending trainings, doing peer review or coaching, sometimes with the entire team. They search for the limit, and move them if necessary.
A while ago I read a beautiful story about an important development in the care for newborn children. It seems incredible, but until the 1980s it was strictly forbidden to hold these vulnerable incubator babies, no matter how hard they cried. However, the fact that these children hardly increased in weight until they got out of the incubator, in spite of the technical perfect circumstances, stood out. Then an American hospital found out that a few incubator babies in their care did grow normally. They eventually found out that, at night, these babies were taken care of by the same nurse who admitted that she had calmed the crying babies, even though it was not permitted, by stroking their backs. Even though she felt guilty for breaking a rule, she kept doing it because by doing it the babies calmed down.
To me this is a beautiful example of a professional who balances courage and trust with external rules and inner truth. I think the power of modernization and progressing together can be found in this balance. It asks for health care professionals who are capable of using their up to date knowledge and their intuition. These professionals have to work by protocol, using checklists to not forget important aspects, but they also have to look at the specific situation of each case and communicate with the patient. They have to be professional enough to be able to make a well considered decision to deviate from a rule if necessary and at the same time motivate themselves and their colleagues to improve themselves by exploring new possibilities, together with their patients.
An utopia? Above-mentioned does ask for a safe, supportive and learning environment in which brave doctors can develop themselves. It would not do well in an environment in which medical professionals are afraid to diverge from set rules and procedures, in fear for repercussions or a bad review on twitter and internet.
As a (future) patient I hope for doctors who dare. Who trust both their knowledge and intuition and stand for their professionalism. To those doctors I gladly entrust my personal fears and doubts and especially my health. Shouldn’t we be able to include something like that in the BIG-register (registration of healthcare professionals who wish to practice in the Netherlands)?
A blog by Angèle van de Ven