Kindness goes a long way
I’ve just worked another 30 hours at the Emergency Department over the weekend and it is time again for reflection. Time to reflect on the patients I’ve seen and how I have contributed to their wellbeing. As doctors, we can get so focused on treating illness that we forget to think about wellness. Our attitude and the way we treat people when both staff and patients are under pressure can sometimes leave a little to be desired. A tired doctor and a difficult patient can sometimes be a recipe for disaster. After 30 years of seeing patients in all sorts of duress, pain, suffering and despair, there are a few who stick in your mind. It is not necessarily their disease, their fracture, or their complaint but how you interacted and how they behaved as a fellow human being. Last weekend, I walked into a room and saw a patient in severe pain with a severe illness. It would rate as one of the more severe conditions I have seen in a while. She brightened up immediately and said, ‘‘Oh it’s you, my husband will be so pleased.’’ Not my usual salutation, I must admit, so I was slightly taken aback. Surely it was a case of mistaken identity, as there are many bald men in scrubs in our department. She addressed me by my name so that theory was discounted. My next thought was that they were avid readers of my Sunday Star Times column. I have two fans now, counting my mum.
The problem was solved when she said that I was the doctor who had stitched up her husband five years ago. Without boring you with the gory details, it was a nasty wound and there’d been a fair amount of anxiety and trepidation involved before I went to work on him.
The fact that she was smiling and thought her husband would be pleased to see me indicated that the procedure went well. It is always best to ask and, despite her own pain and suffering, she reassured me that his wound had healed nicely.
‘‘He will be pleased to hear I am seeing you,’’ she said, ‘‘because you were so kind to us five years ago.’’
People remember how you are more than what you do. It takes little effort to be kind but kindness contributes greatly to people’s wellbeing.
It’s a long bow to draw, but I wonder if wounds heal quicker, pains subside faster and rashes disappear earlier if our medicines are augmented with a dose of kindness.
I did my best to take my patient’s pain away with the powerful drugs at my disposal but what I will remember most is her kindness and gratitude towards me for trying to help her.
It costs nothing to be kind but generates so much. Not all patients we see at the ED are kind or lucid.
Many are homeless, hungry and angry.
One of the best cures for a ‘‘hangry’ ' patient is to treat them with kindness and a feed. They calm down really quickly, without the need for powerful sedatives.
Whatever industry or role you are in, I sincerely believe you can add to your own wellbeing and others by being kind. I’m sure it gives us a chemical buzz.
On that note, I am off to meet my friend Chris Farrelly, CEO of the Auckland City Mission, to see how I can help. I’m sure both the staff and the Mission’s clients could use all of our kindness.
It costs nothing to be kind, and it has a huge impact on our wellbeing and that of others.