And even now with the patients I encounter, these are individuals that influence my approach to medicine. I may only see them once or twice, but they have had an impact on my clinical education. They've inspired me to push myself academically, helped me to refine my professionalism, and have toughened me up to deal with the mercurial nature of medicine. As healthcare professionals (or soon-to-be), we come into their lives at the most vulnerable moment. We become a part of their story as much as they affect ours. And the alliance we form with them, the doctor/patient relationship, is paramount.
I was reminded of this the other day when I saw an elderly patient in the office for a routine physical. She was there with her husband who was sitting quietly in the corner. I started asking her about any concerns she had, addressing any medication refills, and then suddenly her husband chimed in on the conversation.
"You know something, I can tell you've been doing this for a while. You know how I can tell? It's because you're looking at my wife when she talks."
I explained to him that I was only a third year student, only a few months into my clerkship year, but I thanked him for what he said. Golly, if he had been right about me doing this for a while, we'd all be in a heap of trouble because I'm just trying to get through each day. But his comment stuck with me, his observation of how I interviewed his wife. It's the small things that can make a huge difference, looking at someone while they speak and acknowledging what they say. I don't know if I'll see that couple again, but I sure will remember what they said.