When was the last time you expressed gratitude for your healthcare? How often are you satisfied with the healthcare you receive? When do you suppose is the last time your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, medical assistant, intake/discharge specialist, or billing office received a ‘Thank you!’?
I encourage you to take a moment and list the last five benefits you received from your healthcare providers?
Here is my current list:
- Emergency services in the middle of a blizzard for a head injury for a child.
- A surgeon and many, many supportive people for a rotator cuff repair.
- A patient, engaging ophthalmologist helping a frustrated teen with vision-related headaches.
- Access to an annual mammogram with follow up ultrasound whenever something looks suspicious.
- Preventative vaccines and personalized guidance from my physician in preparation for third-world healthcare provision.
Healthcare gratitude I experienced in Jamaica
I can’t stop thinking about my week in Jamaica and the many insights I took away. I was honored to serve with a team of about 20 people caring for people in St. Mary Parish, an underserved portion of Jamaica. We had physicians, nurses, pharmacists, medical records, check-in, child-care, and spiritual support specialists. (Remember that spiritual health is a key aspect to overall health).
Two situations have especially stood out to me. One was a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. She was treated with a mastectomy. She did not have access to radiation or chemotherapy. Now, in 2016, she had a lump under her arm. The physician prescribed an antibiotic. We are all hoping and praying it is an infected cyst and not cancer. Guess what? She was grateful for the care and for the antibiotics! She did not demand other therapy. She was not disgruntled. [Maybe she doesn’t know how it would be treated in a developed country with insurance. Then again, her gratitude and lack of stress over options can actually be to her benefit.]
The other situation was a young boy with low hemoglobin, so he was anemic. Hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout the body. There are several possible causes of anemia in a child. We were able to give him multivitamins and iron supplements. His mother was surprised to hear he was anemic. He was outside playing with the other children as we talked about the medicine. When he came in she showed me how strong and healthy he looks. She was very satisfied with the vitamins and iron. I couldn’t help but think how differently that exchange would likely be here in the US. Parents would want a series of tests to rule out any obscure implication of the anemia. [Note, anemia in children is not uncommon in Jamaica. Children are breastfed for an extended period by mothers who do not have prenatal vitamins. Then, because meat is expensive, the diet has less iron in it.]
Health benefits of gratitude
It is so easy to find fault in other people and in systems. Add the element of fear that comes with medical diagnoses, and people often have very negative reactions in the healthcare setting. That increases stress for the patient, any caregivers with the patient, the physician, and all members of the healthcare team.
Consider the benefits of gratitude instead. Gratitude can:
- Boost your spirits and sense of well-being
- Boost your immune system making you less likely to get sick
- Decrease your chances of heart disease
- Improve your performance (job, concentration)
- Bust your stress
By all means, when mistakes are made they need to be addressed. But mistakes are not the norm. People go to school for many, many years to be able to provide the best healthcare they can provide.
We saw hundreds of patients in very hot August in Jamaica in churches with no air conditioning and few fans. And I only heard one person complain over five very full days. That woman didn’t understand why the man next to her got more diabetes medication than she got. Once she understood it took more medicine to manage his sugar she was satisfied.
If you would like to hear more about my trip to Jamaica or about the health benefit of gratitude, contact me at www.medsmash.com/newsblog/.
For further application, check out my personal blog.