Episode 29: Learn how to help your patients’ healing by acknowledging their spiritual beliefs, staying emotionally vulnerable, and even being open to a spiritual journey of your own.
Listen to the podcast here…
In the last podcast, we discussed the contrast between out perfectionist, type-A personality and the objective information overload that exists in medical education.
Internally, we’re continually striving and conniving to find a way to rationalize and sync our ambition and good motives with the reality that we can’t remember everything. What’s more, there will be some patients we cannot save.
Ok, let’s assume thought like this occur to you occasionally. How do you respond when a patient wants to pray with you, or is much less worried about their loss of life than you are?
With 2/3 of U.S. physicians entering medical school with degrees in science, there is often disconnect between the religious convictions, and ardent living out of those beliefs, and the patient populations for which they care.
I’m not suggesting that scientific education precludes belief in God. In fact, recent scientific evidence is increasingly demonstrating that the two are very mutually compatible.
Practically speaking, we as physicians need to learn how to be supportive our patients and respect the healing power that is known to come from spiritual convictions and a healthy outlook on life.
In terms of the patient-physician relationship, connecting with our patients has the best therapeutic effect. Staying emotionally vulnerable ourselves will guard against pessimism and desensitization.
What’s not usually taught is that the value of spirituality is that it adds much needed meaning to life and everything that happens within it.
From the simplicity of looking for a reason why things happen and “looking on the bright side”, to physical healing and the supernatural, you will see it all during the course of your medical career.
The question, as I see it, isn’t “do these things happen?”, it is “are you paying attention?”
Are you spiritually awake?
A major reason why I left my first residency was because I was too fatigued to maintain my spiritual fitness. I even did an entire Anatomy of Malignant Residency Program course to make sure that my experience wasn’t wasted.
As I agreed to in my last podcast, I’m going to be extremely vulnerable in this second podcast on this subject of inadequacy as a physician.
Here is the exact same list of internal questions that so many student-doctors carry with them:
* I am not perfect. In fact, I’m prone to do the wrong thing when left alone.
* Of myself I don’t have the intellectual power to remember every single detail that will be important one day to a patient.
* I will make mistakes.
* I have to find a way to be happy with whom I am even though I can’t live up to the unspoken curriculum that states I need to remember everything.
Now here are the same ideas conveyed in total transparency. If I did not share this with you, then you wouldn’t know who I really am. I think like this every day and it is unfair to both of us, if you’re interested in my story at all, to leave out such a crucial part of me – my faith!
I’ll now go over the same list and overlay my convictions:
* I am not perfect. In fact, I’m prone to do the wrong thing when left alone. I’m a sinner, and in my life before medicine I more than proved that to myself. God is all-powerful and still uses my imperfection to accomplish His will.
* Of myself I don’t have the intellectual power to remember every single detail that will be important one day to a patient. It is my earnest prayer that I develop lifelong learning habits and incorporate objective feedback into my practice style; that I may never get to cocky for my patient’s and my own good.
* I will make mistakes. The core issue here is self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. In my entire life, I could never accomplish this 100% for anything. There was always some amount of regret or shame around wrong things I did. I needed a new way of looking at this – a different, spiritual principle that would allow me to do my best in medicine and in life, and live happily with the fact that sometimes it would simply not be enough. What I found was greater than that, but more about that in a moment…
* I have to find a way to be happy with whom I am even though I can’t live up to the unspoken curriculum that states I need to remember everything. Instead of walking around with the Imposter Phenomenon, I hold my head high knowing that I don’t have to be perfect because there is only One that is perfect, and that One is God.
It is only in embracing my spiritual convictions that I can be at peace with my inadequacies in medicine and in life. I am so grateful to report that I have been blessed with such a belief system – and it was so simple I could have easily missed it.
See, I’m a Christian, and God is the Great Physician. He even led St. Luke to write one of the gospels in the New Testament.
If you want to find peace, forgiveness, a new perspective that lets you off the hook for your imperfections, then ask Jesus to come into your heart and follow Him.
When I was 8 years old, my mother led me in a very simple prayer that took only a few seconds and made a difference for eternity.
Will you please say it outloud with me?
“God, I realize I’m a sinner and that I’ve done things wrong in my life.
Accept Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins and ask you to come into my heart and be my Lord.”