Health Care: Taking responsibility

We in modern society are fond of complaining about the health care system. Indeed, complaints about modern health care are ubiquitous - like talking about the weather: “Was it raining when you came in? Darn if my hemorrhoids aren’t acting up again. You never see the same doctor these days.”

See what I mean? I know, the example is a little extreme (but not by much - look at prescription advertising for medications on television these days). But, it still speaks to a broader issue: Our sense - perhaps our fear - that health care won’t take care of us now if we need it, and more anxiety-provoking still, will not be there when we need it as old folks.

As a health care professional (and married to another quite fetching health care professional), I am deeply familiar with these fears both on a personal and a professional level. But as I was reading an article this morning, I realized that I am a part of that system each day for each patient I see. Indeed, I may be the whole of the system for that patient on that day. In four hours when I begin seeing patients, I will either cast sunshine or shadow over the patients I am seeing who will be having a heart cath, or perhaps a catheter ablation to fix a unstable heart beat. The system may very well succeed or fail based on what I do or say. Even if the procedure is a success, the encounter with the system may fail based on how I or my co-workers take responsibility for the well-being of this patient in this room at this time and how well I do what I said I would do.

I fear that we hide behind our systems. Our hospital coalitions are even called systems. When did we buy into such an impersonal way of saying that we are caring for people? As long as we hide behind our systems, will our health care professionals ever fully own that it is people, persons, that we care for?

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