Mercer On Mission

2015 Blog

Monday-Week 2: Erika

You know, it’s so easy to go through life convinced you don’t matter--that you don’t make a difference.  It’s easy to believe that interactions you have with other people will soon be forgotten. Because, what if what you did or said truly does matter? What if some small thing you could say or do did in fact help someone? That’s a lot of pressure when you think about it.

        I often find myself thinking about this as a future physician. We are often under the impression that we can’t change our patients. If they want to smoke, they’ll smoke. If they want to drink, they’ll drink, and if they want to have hypertension and not treat it, they’ll do that too. It can be depressing. Sometimes we convince ourselves that it’s just easier to not talk to patients about health issues that we “have no influence over.”

        Last week in clinic I had a patient, Jose, who was so full of life and energy—he had charisma, he was jovial and he was special. The only problem was that he was slowly killing himself with high blood pressure and diabetes.  I decided to have a talk with Jose even though I knew what I would say to him probably would have no influence. I asked him if he wanted to talk about exercise—he did. He was curious. I told him to try to do laps around his house or anywhere for 30 minutes per day. I asked him if he could cut his portions in half. He said he would. Of course, I was skeptical.

        Then today, nearly a week later, one of the students saw him walking around the soccer field at the ranch where we are staying. She was curious as to what he was doing and asked him. He said, “One of the doctors told me I needed to do laps and exercise, so I am”.  That “doctor” was me. I could hardly believe it—a patient was doing something I had suggested? Did I actually make a difference? Much to my surprise, I think I did.

        So, this is a small little thing, but it sure means a lot to me.  It changes the way I will interact with my patients in the U.S. I will choose to believe that some small thing I say to a patient will matter. In fact, I believe that the interactions we have with each person on a day to day has the potential to be more than just a “hello” and “goodbye”. We have a chance to connect with each other, and what we do/say really does matter.

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