I’m All Ears
By Nazia Sadaf
Note: This is a part of a series written by participants of the Forbes Ignite Impact Fellowship.
“My right knee is killing me. I can’t walk. Nothing helps and not one doctor has done anything for this sharp, excruciating, debilitating pain.” The semi-literate late septuagenarian villager looked at me with a defeated look as he gave history for my SOCRATES question (Schofield et al., 2014).
I was a tad bit surprised and responded with, “But you’ve been seen by some of the best orthopedics in town. Are you not taking your painkillers as prescribed?” I judged his compliance for a colorful combination of NSAIDS, hypoglycemic, and antihypertensives while sifting through a book load of medical reports (we didn’t have electronic records at our disposal a decade ago).
Morose, he muttered the most baffling complaint I’ve ever come across in my career — “Yes, they keep sending me into all these holes [scans]. But no one ever bothered to touch and place a stethoscope 🩺 over my knee, ever.” I was speechless! Well, kind of. He was still stuck in the bygone and strange art of the early 20th century (Blodgett, 1902; Garrod, 1911; Steindler, 1937).
Patient satisfaction and patient perspective is sometimes so far up in space, physicians need rocket science to reach that sweet spot. My knee jerk reaction was to tell him off and make him realize how abundantly silly he sounded. However, my compassion allowed me to laugh it off. I set my steth as I rose from my seat. “You are right,” I said. “Some of my colleagues indeed rely on imaging rather heavily. Here, show me your knee. Let’s see what we can find today.”
I will never forget the fulfilled look on his face with every “hmm” and “aha” I said while auscultating his joint. As the nurse looked on in shock at the spectacle of me “listening to his knee,” I gained quite a lot. I heard the sound of patient satisfaction. The sound of patient validation.
Giving my left-brain a break, I somehow managed to create a win-win scenario and achieved a greater good. I achieved the ultimate goal — the patient’s drug compliance in the days to come (Ofie-Dodoo, 2019).
With our heuristic leanings and learnings, we often forget to bathe into the magical glory of our right brains. I firmly believe in de-educating from time to time — if just for a bit — shedding some logic-scales to feel light and to actually ‘feel’ like that semi-literate patient. Not just to empathize. To feel. From that day onward, I now consciously choose conversation over monologue. Interaction over broadcast. I try to be Socratic instead of didactic.
For the sake of my patients’ longevity and quality of life, this is what I hope to enhance during this interactive and collaborative fellowship. Who knows, maybe we will end up building a lifesaving and life-changing legacy to leave behind.