Live Still Points Volume 6, May 2015 - Page 10


What DO’s Do Best

Recently a friend of mine, when asked what she looks for in a good physician, told me that she was the wrong person to ask because she fears going to the doctor. She fears going because she’s afraid that the physician is going to tell her that something is wrong with her. When talking to my father, he mentioned that he dislikes his current physician because during his last visit the doctor didn’t touch him at all. The Journal of the American Medical Association published an opinion piece in their most recent publication on “The Ethics of Patient Care” and in it, a physician is undergoing a surgical procedure and the anesthesiologist listens to his complaint of neck pain, then takes him through a series of gentle cervical extensions to try and figure out when and where it hurt. To the author this was an anomaly in the medical community. The undercurrent of these three patient concerns is a lack of empathy and interpersonal skills.

In the first situation above, my friend is afraid that when she goes to her physician she will be told that something is wrong. In my education thus far, and I’m only a first year. I’ve been taught that as DO’s we stand on a philosophy of utilizing what is right and healthy in order to treat the abnormal and then maintain health over the long term. This philosophy can go far in alleviating this specific fear that patients may have in that they will go to their doctor, find out something is “wrong,” be given a pill, and sent on their way.

Secondly, since day one at Touro University California, I have had my hands not only on my fellow classmates during our OMT training, but on real patients. We are taught that the hands are a way to experience a patient’s anatomy and physiology, and build a connection with the patient. Even if that connection is just to establish a rapport with the patient, as osteopathic physicians, we have a grandiose leg up in our ability to make that connection because it is one more tool in our diagnostic belt that we are familiar with.

The last example highlights the necessity of empathy in a patient care setting. The author of the piece was fundamentally shocked by the fact that a doctor had taken the time to really listen to him, and then to touch him. He claims that this empathetic expose “not only relieved his anxiety but perhaps prevented a complication” (William T. Branch Jr.). With the proper philosophical platform to stand on—one of utility and preservation of health—and a solid skill set—physical contact with a patient—the use of empathy towards patient care becomes exponentially easier. It is a beautiful thing to experience these three separate patient complaints and realize that the application of a set of central ethical values in patient care is one of the things that we as DO’s can do best.

Works Cited

William T. Branch Jr., MD. "The Ethics of Patient Care." JAMA 313.14 (2015): 1421-1422.