Don't be bad
I often get patients who expect me to blame them. Sometimes it's not really volitional - guilt is a common emotion. But other times it's a learned behavior. They don't feel like they're really "going to the doctor" if someone doesn't wag their finger at them and call them BAD BAD BAD for not "living healthy." If you're expecting moralizing, I'm not gonna. I don't think you're a bad person for not following physicians' guidelines. Most of the time, PHYSICIANS don't follow physicians' guidelines.
A Hebrew University intern shared on her FB wall something wholly mundane, but in these days well-nigh miraculous, about Arabs and Jews working together on a hospital ward: professionally, cooperatively, and with care.
Post-call on the pediatrics ward, Hillel Yaffe Medical Center. The team for most of call was two doctors and a nurse, all Muslim Arabs, and a Jewish nurse and intern. The atmosphere was warm and good, despite the general despair evident on everyone's face, even though the news was open on one of the computers in the background, despite Code Red warnings heard occasionally from the app that a Jewish nurse and an Arab doctor had running. We talked freely about baseless hatred toward both sides. Freedom of expression. The fucked-up situation.
All the while, the Arab team members treated Jewish infants with dedication and a big smile, as Jewish staff treated Arab babies with the same dedication. In the afternoon, when the Ramadan fast was getting harder for one doctor and he asked to rest an hour or two, the Jewish and Arab staff stayed to cover him. These past few days, when two interns got called up from the reserves, the entire Arab and Jewish staff worked extra to cover them. Then, when the doctor ordered food for breaking the fast, he asked the Jews on the team if he could order them something to eat too. As they broke their fast, the Jewish staff kept working. Through the night, the entire team worked in full cooperation with smiles and laughter and good humor.
I know everyone has resentments, anger, opinions. And a solution, if there is one, isn’t simple and will require concessions from each side.
But - and call me naive - a night like this encouraged me, let me dream that one day what matters will be the fact that we are above all human beings, and somehow, maybe we can even build something beautiful and positive here together.
-- Tal Kessler, intern, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (translated from the Hebrew by ZB)
The author of Talking To Your Doctor and Making Sense of Medicine blogs about the books, shared decision making, doctor-patient communication, and the redeemable imperfections of healthcare.