I have been composing this post for well over a week – both in my head, and pen to paper via the keyboard. I have a multitude of words..yet, none feel right. As a newer massage therapist, I am developing my philosophy of care and really learning about the broken healthcare system through experiences my clients have shared. I have never doubted the atrocious care my friends or clients have received though; it has been hard to visualize the experiences. Hard because a small part of me still bought into the myth that the healthcare system should make us well. That healthcare providers are compassionate listeners without bias or judgment who will doggedly search for a diagnosis and treatment. That we, as patients – needers of care – could discuss our needs and feel safe, trusted and believed. While I KNOW this isn’t the norm, I still hoped and believed it could be true. That is, until I witnessed the broken system in action…and continue to. I have journeyed beside one of my dearest friends as she has experienced all the brokenness our healthcare systems has to offer. And I am angry.
I would love to share the details of these horrific experiences, but they are not mine to share. I would love to present a timeline of the appointments, tests and condescending commentary of the healthcare workers that have “helped” her during her illness. If I could share, you would not read about a single healthcare worker who listened to her, their patient – a patient who, by the way, has had an extensive patient care, research and health education career. You would not find evidence of a single test run for the diagnosis she has handed them over and over and over again. You would not see a treatment plan. Ultimately, you would see only judgment, neglect and abuse where care should have been. I am disgusted.
And, I am sickened. Sickened that the healthcare system we, as Americans, are mandated to carry health insurance for has done nothing but ignore a visible illness or injury. Has literally danced around the source of illness and skipped right to expensive treatment options that will absolutely not work until the problem is addressed. Sickened that the healthcare system that is in place to take care of us when we are ill, injured or otherwise NOT healthy has created psychological trauma and depression because they refuse to listen, examine or investigate. Sickened that each of the Hippocratic Oaths has been so shamelessly dishonored by the very people who vowed to uphold these ideals.
But, I am also saddened. Saddened for the doctors and nurses who did care once upon a time. Who saw each new patient with excitement and were ready for a challenge and a new learning opportunity. Saddened that egos grew, spirits were broken, and apathy set in. Egos grew to the point that the possibility that a patient knows THEIR BODY better than a “professional” sounds absurd! Spirits shattered to the point that compassion for self and others has been driven out and replaced with apathy. Apathy, the occupier of these now empty shells of caregivers.
Even through the anger, disgust and sadness, I pray for these providers. I pray they rediscover what originally called them into the healing profession. For courage to walk a new path if this one no longer calls or feeds their soul. For humility, ears that hear and hearts that feel & lead. But mostly, I pray for their patients to experience no harm at their hand or mouth. I pray for the ability of patients and their partners to advocate for proper care and the confidence to squash neglect and abusive treatment in its tracks. I am hopeful.
I will not forget my friend’s horrific ordeal. As much as I can’t stand to witness the effects of this illness or the psychological abuse she has endured, I am infinitely more thankful I can be here for her. I am meant to witness this and, in an odd way, I am grateful for the front row seat & all I have learned. I have made the following vows to myself for the benefit of all current and future clients. If I find myself in the position of not believing a client, I pray my friend’s face will appear in my mind’s eye to interrupt the judgment and push me back into my place as compassionate caregiver. If I find myself in a position where I can’t understand or treat an issue, I pray my ego quickly steps aside so I may research or make a referral – because the care I offer isn’t about ME but those who seek it. If I discover apathy living where compassion once resided, I pray I recognize it before I cause harm to another. I pray and strive to ensure compassion and love remains at the center of my philosophy of care. I am prepared.