The Key to Getting Well 1

The Key to Getting Well - 1

Dr. K. Ramamoorthy

To my mind the most important thing is to identify oneself with the patient-with a sympathetic understanding of his problems and illness. We doctors often are trained to see only the disease. We have to remind ourselves that we are dealing with human beings, not just illnesses. Medicine can achieve very little if this understanding is lost. If we persist in thinking that we can treat the patient and cure him without really caring for the person, we would be excellent technicians but as doctors we would be incomplete.

A good doctor "sees” and "hears” his patient. In medical parlance, this is known as history-taking. Our teachers always insisted on our practising this informal psychotherapy on our patients. We should not take down the facts of the patient's medical history without making a proper eye contact with him. We should observe him and hear him patiently. Many symptoms and signs can be missed out if we fail to follow this procedure religiously. Often doctors see their patients in too great a hurry because they are too busy to listen to them. Howsoever brilliant a doctor may be, if this art of communicating with the patient is lost, a meaningful patient-doctor relationship is also lost.

The next important thing is to understand a patient's feelings and anxieties regarding his illness. We have to explain as simply as we can the nature of his illness and the role he himself has to play in getting better. A few words of encouragement coming from a knowledgeable and, above all, a confident physician, go a long way in his getting better even without the use of medicines. A doctor who inspires and guides his patients, who explains to them the beneficial results of positive thinking, can certainly enhance the healing process in them.

Indeed, many illnesses can be prevented and tackled if one adopts a rational and balanced approach towards day-to-day activities, as for example by acquiring proper dietary habits, by avoiding excess of alcohol, tobacco and other harmful drugs and by taking regular exercises for maintaining optimal weight and so on. Not all illnesses require medication.

In addition to a detailed history about the patient's illness, a good physical examination and a few relevant tests are in order. This not only reassures the patient (especially if the laboratory reports are normal) but also gives him the additional satisfaction of not being neglected.

All these moves combined with a human approach is all that is needed-nothing more is required and nothing less is expected. At no time should the human dimension be forgotten whilst dealing with a suffering human being. A doctor can even have a placebo effect on his patient!

The patient's confidence in his physician is crucial for getting well but the confidence has to be earned by the physician by his own efforts. However, a patient should also have confidence in whatever system of medicine he seeks for his cure—be it allopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy or—if some levity is permissible—"Ganapathy' which is faith in God. Spirituality and religiosity offer peace of mind and a peaceful mind most certainly has a beneficial physiological effect on the body.

Compilation of professional reminiscences of specialists - edited by M.V.Kamath and Dr.Rekha Karmarkar