Saturday, December 10, 2011


Ronald Reagan was said to be the Great Communicator! Style and Substance: Short and Sweet and Succinct. It reminds me of the contrast from my early years of medical practice, and the later role I served in the complaints committee of the regulatory body. Many of the complaints about physicians arose as a result of failure to explain, failure to take the time to answer questions, and assumptions that people understood, when in fact they didn't. It all takes time, truth and syntax! It may reflect caring if you communicate wisely, but it is more important that the patient is truly informed for the benefit of the caregiver as well as themselves! We used to laughingly joke," We were taught in third year Medicine to write illegibly so that no one could use our records against us; and taught in fourth year Medicine how to mumble so no one could gainsay what we told them! The joke was of course, "We ended up with no communication skills." Some times that, in reality, was not far off. I have seen many cases of superb treatment provided to people who bitterly complained about the treatment because the communication, both before or after, was awful or non existent. Since I went to Medical School in the 50's and trained in surgery in the early sixties, communication took second place then, to technical skill. The "cared for" were patients, not clients, and certainly not customers. That terminology is evolutionary. We cared deeply in the olden days about doing good work, and we worked so hard, but we wondered why they didn't love us.The idea of the patient participating in their care or contributing was nonexistent in those days, even if you were not a Martinet. It's hard to even fathom that attitude now, but the change of patient, to client, to customer, for better or worse, is the great leveler. Certainly, like all else, nothing is cut and dried, respect is a two way street, and education of everyone is the key!

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