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Movies that should be required viewing for health care professionals

Published by Chapster on 2007/2/23 (15907 reads)
Over the course of many years as professional caregivers, Barb and I have used movies in many of the courses that we have taught. They can be profoundly inspirational in moving us to understand and model the kinds of behaviors we'd like to see in caregivers. Here's some of our favorites with a few comments on each one.

Wit - Starring Emma Thompson, this movie, for whatever reason came and went fairly quickly. It was based on a stage play by the same name. It tells the story of an English professor who is given a diagnosis of virulent cancer. She is offered the opportunity to participate in a research study. In the courses of her illness she learns much about herself, about caring in general, and about the occasional ruthlessness of the medical system. There are so many exemplar scenes that are instructional about the nature of good care, the potential for healing in the simplest of touches, and the strength of the human spirit. We highly recommend this movie for it's ability to convey the powers to heal in a simple touch. Some of the scenes seem to intentionally juxtapose the nearly mean-spirited nature of the impersonal care that is often given against the backdrop of a nurse who is unafraid to reach out and embrace her patients. Some nudity, in this case appropriate to the subject matter. Link to Amazon: Wit

Critical Care - Starring James Spader, Kyra Sedgewick, and Albert Brooks (in an absolutely hilarious role as Dr. Butz), this movie is a tour de force regarding the place of ethics and academia in everyday medicine. It centers around a patient whose two daughters are at polar extremes regarding the care that their dying father should get. As is so often the case, no party has clean motives, including the medical providers. The movie itself is comedic, yet at the same time, in the end, profoundly meaningful. All the actors (many well-known actors in addition to the ones mentioned previously) do a stellar job with their roles. Like the movie Wit which deals with similar matters, Critical Care didn't hang around in the theaters long - perhaps as testament to the discomfort that people feel when addressing mortality issues. Pity, though. In the long run, we all pay the price when we don't face our own deaths. Link to Amazon: Critical Care

Shadowlands - Starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, this is the true story of the love relationship between theologian C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidson. Among Lewis' gifts was his understanding of theology and philosophy. By any estimation, he had one of the most formidable minds of the twentieth century. He was a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien and wrote his own series of children's books, The Chronicles of Narnia. He was quite comfortable in living his own staid existence as a scholar. What he did not anticipate was that all his equally formidable walls wold come crashing down when he encountered the even more formidable Joy Davidson. In every sense, she broke down the walls that he had built around his personal sanctuary and challenged him in every unlit corner of the heart. It is also the story of the end of her life, of their parting, of their love. You will need tissues - if you have a soul. If not, don't bother.

This story was based upon a stage play, which was then made into a BBC movie, C.S. Lewis: Through the Shadowlands. Many feel the BBC version, starring Joss Ackland, was better than either the stage play or the theatrical version starring Hopkins and Winger. Both are excellent. One marvelous line from the BBC version is when C.S. Lewis' character, after the death of Davidson, is approached by his pastor who raves about Lewis' taking her death with such faith and trust in God. Lewis replies: "It's a mess. It's a damn mess."

It should be noted that Lewis' love was such that Joy's death lead to his writing what many feel is the greatest book on grief ever written: A Grief Observed.

Lewis died three years after her death.

Many lines are deeply profound in either version. I never watch this movie, either one, without tears. More than any other movie I've seen, these begin to convey the true meanings of love and grief. There have been times when I have recommended that those who are grieving their own losses watch this (I don't do that often - it's generally too intense after a death - but there have been some occasions when people have told me that it helped them: "I felt like someone understood what I was experiencing.").

Patch Adams - A friend of mine knows a former roommate of Patch Adams, the character after whom this fact-based motion picture was named. I have it on good grounds that the real Patch Adams is even loonier than the movie character.

Patch Adams is one of those rare ensemble productions that is, at once, gut-rippingly funny, gut-rippingly sad, and endlessly inspiring. Williams can, at times, get annoying with his stand-up-routines-carried-into-film. In this forum, though, they suit him. Indeed, as when he confronts a mean terminally ill patient, it works marvelously.

As we have taught classes of health care professionals, there are some scenes that are regularly brought up as being especially poignant: "How many fingers am I holding up?" among them. Others I will not mention in the event that you haven't seen the movie. In any case, this movie makes our list because it illustrates very well the difference between health care and care of persons: Sadly, most of our care has little recognition of the personhood of people.

Adams has continued to work on behalf of the improvement of health care. He has authored two books which explain his values and beliefs regarding health care. They can be found here and here. Happy viewing and reading!

[b]M*A*S*H[b] - There are many episodes in this series that are relevant to the nature of caring for those who are suffering, humor in health care, the suffering borne by professional caregivers, and the nature and pathos of the human condition. I find myself surprised at this series continued ability to make me laugh myself silly and moments later cry at the recognition of myself or others in a story of hurting of joy. One moment, Klinger is telling one of his comrades, "If I had a dog with a face like yours, I'd shave its butt and teach it to walk backwards." The next minute, a dishevelled Father Mulcahy, the unit's chaplain is tearfully copping to trying to impress a visiting superior (dare I say a Father Superior?) while one of the hospital's patients is risking his life to make sure a buddy gets the care he needs. Being a chaplain myself, I know the feeling, the self-doubt. I recognize it in myself and in others. I think M*A*S*H should be required viewing for caregivers. It is the most enduring example of passionate, humane storytelling of any series I have seen.

Tags: caregiver   films   picture   motion  

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Chapster
Posted: 2007/4/6 5:31  Updated: 2007/6/18 23:00
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 Re: Movies that should be required viewing for health car...
We will occasionally add other films/shows/movies that we remember as being helpful. This morning, though it is not a movie, I was reminded of the series M*A*S*H which I added to the article. We will continue to add such items as we think of other ones.