When someone enters a medical setting, they’re usually in an emotionally vulnerable place. After all, no one is seeing a doctor purely for the fun of it. So why is it that most medical practices seem to ignore the emotional and mental state of their patients? Is this really the best that we can do?
I had to have injections in my back last week. I’ve had them done before, so it wasn’t the first time–but it was the first time I’ve had them without Jim there to comfort me.
Even though I’ve had this procedure before, everything about this experience was different.
I had a new surgeon – “my” surgeon left Colorado during COVID. The nerve! I’ve moved two times (and counting – don’t ask!) since surgery, so I was in a different hospital. These two factors alone were enough to affect my emotional state. But on top of a new surgeon and
hospital, I was interacting with different nurses, who truly didn’t seem interested in anything other than their own personal conversations.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of nurses. They got me through every step of this in 2017. I’ve had almost only amazing experiences with nurses who were empathetic, caring, and genuinely kind. But these nurses honestly made me feel like I was a nuisance; like I was in the way.
And I was a nervous wreck. So much of this experience was new, and you never know what to expect when working with anyone new – let alone a new surgeon.
But more than that, I was really emotional. Grief isn’t a straight line, and doing something without your partner for the first time can bring up so many emotions.
The nurses left me sitting alone much of the time – no books. No TV. Just me, myself, and my thoughts. Being left on my own in the past would have sent my anxiety soaring through the roof. Thankfully, I know how to get myself through these moments – but I was still more emotional, with time to dwell on whatever my imagination took me to.
Is this really the best that we can do for patients?
I’ve talked on The Be Ruthless Show several times about how the majority of Medical Buildings have every doctor imaginable….. except Psychologists and Psychiatrists.
We need to start thinking outside the box.
Why don’t medical offices and hospitals have someone on staff to sit with patients and provide comfort to those who are lonely, anxious, elderly, or young? Not everyone will want that support, but it would be incredibly beneficial to those who need it. If it isn’t in the budget, why not open it up to willing volunteers?
And why are the standards of care so low that nurses, doctors, and other staff feel comfortable treating patients like their presence is an inconvenience? Why do we focus only on the physical condition, and completely ignore and neglect the human being with emotions sitting in front of us?
We know that mental health and physical health are connected. Some studies even suggest that different emotional and psychological states can affect both healing outcomes and the likelihood of complications post-surgery. If emotional health is tied to physical health outcomes, why are we treating only one and neglecting the other entirely?
It’s time for the medical community to unite in making tangible changes to the processes and expectations within the healthcare system. Maybe this means hiring more staff to give nurses more bandwidth to spend time with each patient. Maybe it means a renewed focus on mental health education for staff members or further training on empathy and compassionate care. It could even mean adding mental health check-ins to procedures to ensure that every patient is supported and enters their appointments in the right headspace.
Providers: want to educate your staff on how to create an empathetic, caring environment for patients? Book a call here if you’d like me to come in and lead training for your staff!
In the meantime, there are things that you can do as a patient to protect your emotional health while receiving medical care.
When you are preparing for an upcoming appointment, think about what makes you feel at ease in a medical setting. Do waiting rooms make you uncomfortable? Ask if there is a private room that you can sit in, or if you can sit in your car and wait for a phone call to come inside. Do weigh-ins cause you extra stress? Ask if you can skip it unless absolutely necessary. If you need to understand all of the details of a procedure before you can relax, request that the doctor talk you through the steps at the beginning or specifically state what they are doing as they go.
If waiting is the hard part for you, find something that can keep your mind occupied while in the waiting room. Bring a book, a crossword puzzle, or even a knitting project.
Don’t underestimate the value of a friend. If medical appointments are too much to handle by yourself, ask a loved one to join you. Whether you prefer that they wait in the lobby or sit in on your appointment, having an ally can make all the difference. And if you have had doctors who dismiss what you are saying, find someone who is comfortable speaking up for you when you need it!
If you’ve found yourself frustrated with the lack of empathy in some medical settings, you’re not alone. Even I, a mental health professional, have struggled emotionally in these spaces! Let’s keep the conversation going so that we can create medical environments that promote healing both physically and emotionally.
Need to talk? Reach out to me through email, text, or book a call with me.
And if you’re seeking community support, join the Griefhab Community for unlimited support, resources, and more.
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