Thursday, March 24, 2011

From Rural Health to the JayDoc Clinic: A Pre-Med’s Journey

As a pre-med student, I wanted a little taste of what I might experience as a practicing doctor.  This is what led me to the Jaydoc Community Clinic as a volunteer.  I will continue to share with you my experiences!  
I have long suspected that the ever popular Hollywood-created medical dramas may be exaggerating the truth about medicine…just a little.  Shows like Grey’s Anatomy, House, and Private Practice like to glamorize medicine.   These shows feature groups of ridiculously good looking medical professionals that not only go from room-to-room saving lives, but also manage to make their superior lifesaving abilities and knack for looking ridiculously good seem like it is just all in a day’s work.  A day at the Jaydoc Clinic is worlds apart from the Hollywood view of medicine, but I did observe a few similarities. 
Over the past few weeks my time at the Jaydoc Clinic has shown me what these television shows may have gotten right: 
  • The volunteers at the Jaydoc Clinic are composed of some of Wichita’s most ridiculously good looking people, but I won’t focus on that.
  • The practice of medicine is heavily dependent on the relationships and interactions between physicians and their patients. 
 As the weeks go by, I find that as I learn more about medicine, I am also learning more about people, and how my interactions with them can influence their health.
The Straight Shooter
Some patients need a straight shooting physician and a little tough love.  Many of the patients I have seen so far at the Jaydoc Clinic are plagued by chronic health issues and complications that are the result of smoking.  So far, every physician I have observed has taken a direct approach to telling the patient they need to stop smoking.  This statement is usually met with several reasons why the patient smokes, how they have managed to cut back, and why it is difficult to quit.  The physicians are sympathetic, yet they don’t indulge the patients’ reasons for smoking.   The directness of “you need to stop smoking” is often followed by “you CAN stop smoking TODAY and we have some great resources for you that can help you quit.”  

 The physicians, the students, and I all want our patients to be able to stop smoking.   Our enthusiasm and belief in our patients’ ability to quit smoking motivates the patients and I have noticed a change in their attitude towards quitting.  I watched as one patient left the exam room, armed with an entire bag of smoking cessation aids, resource guides, motivational information, and a lot of determination – she was going to quit smoking.  I was excited to see that the patient left feeling encouraged, determined, and supported in their ability to successfully stop smoking and lead a healthier life.
Relate With Me
Patients like to be able to relate to their doctors.  I watched as one of the physicians sat down next to the patient and explained ways the patient could lower their cholesterol and blood pressure.  The physician talked about eating habits and exercise tips that she used in her own day-to-day routine.  The doctor was really excited that the patient was so eager to take control of their health, and that enthusiasm rubbed off on the patient.  The way the physician was able to relate to the patient allowed the patient to see that the tips and strategies were truly doable.  By the end of the exam, the patient left with diet and exercise recommendations that they could immediately implement into their daily routine.  Most importantly, the patient was enthusiastic about making a change that, although difficult, would have a profound effect on their health and well-being.
What I Have Learned (so far)
The little things really do mean a lot to patients.  Simple actions like a smile, a handshake, a sympathetic ear, or kind words can let a patient know you care.  A little tough love and motivation lets a patient know that they can overcome health obstacles and that you truly want to see them succeed.  In the end, I think that the more positive a patient’s health care experience is, the more likely they are to follow through with their care.  Health care providers play a huge role in determining just how positive a patient’s experience will be.  Although the medical dramas fail to portray the medical field accurately, they do emphasize the importance of physician-to-patient relationship as a partnership towards a better health outcome.
-Auburn Weber, Rural Health Education and Services, University of Kansas Medical Center

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