A Part-Time Healer

My wife, who worked side by side with me as a nurse practitioner for over ten years, is my proofreader. She actually worked as a proofreader for a small New England weekly newspaper many years before I met her. She is also my best friend and my sounding board.

My first version of the previous post on this blog didn’t meet with her approval. She pointed out that my narrative sounded jaded and encouraged me to come back to it on a day when I was less tired. I gave the post a few days rest before revising it and felt better about the second version.

The other night, as I was describing a difficult day in the office with a schedule that didn’t make my job easy to do, she reflected:

“You treat your patients better than you treat your staff, or your family sometimes, for that matter”.

I looked up from my dinner plate. She wasn’t joking.

“You can be such a healing presence for your patients”, she said, “but you have a tendency to turn that off in dealing with the rest of us. You could be more healing in all your relationships”.

I thought of what she said. She was right, of course. I can be hard on myself and on those around me. I tend to think of us as working only for the patients or some abstract ideal of perfection rather than also with each other.

How many times have I simply told my wife or my children that their symptoms – sprains, migraines or bellyaches – will go away without offering a fraction of the support my regular patients get in the same situations? And how many times have I been less attentive to their worries and heartaches than I should have been?

I realize my loved ones get less care than they deserve, because “I already gave at the office”.

Do I really think I have a right to switch off my healing presence? I don’t mean that I or any other physician should try to work longer hours or take on more patients than we are able to take care of. What my wife made me think about is my whole way of being:

I always wanted to be a doctor. Now that I am one, I am a doctor every moment of my life. I am not a husband or a father or a pet owner just certain days or hours of my life. Neither one of those roles is “just a job”. Neither is being a doctor, particularly in specialties that profess to treat the whole person.

Obviously, I am still working at it. I’s my New Year’s resolution.

3 Responses to “A Part-Time Healer”

  1. 1 lucinda manning, RN, MPH January 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    a good resolution for all of us…healers or not..
    best of luck keeping yourself present in the here and now.

  2. 2 Jewell Burke January 1, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Oh Doc! How many times have I told you to just enjoy your family and music? You have a habit of struggling to get back to your patients….Thank God for the time found for your family and for yourself!I have no doubt if I were your patient I would selfishly but unintentionally, want you to keep seeing me! Your sweet and caring nature attaches itself to those patients who have become very dear to you. I have to confess, I am the world’s worst at being attached to my Doctor and being very reluctant to go elsewhere. That is a whole new story! LOL. I am very distrustful of many of the newer Doctors! If, for a minute I thought I was keeping my Doctor from time with his/her family, I would not be so dedicated to seeing only that Doctor. I’m just trying to help you understand how we patients “think” when it comes to “Our Doctor.” The truth is many of us don’t think!

    Sam and I spent New Year’s Eve with some very dear people! One of the sons and his wife was our next door neighbor at one time. He came and picked us up and we listened to some fantastic old time Bluegrass the family plays! The Mother, who I was immediately drawn to, has stage four cancer and is on chemo. Before we left, here she came out of the living room, and she and I ended up singing several old songs!!! The harmony just fell into place with us and it was wonderful to share your “Cure.” On the way home, her son told us that was the first time yesterday she had acted like she felt anything but bad!

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is”Court your precious wife again, love your children like never before, especially that new grandson. And play that music Doc.”
    With Much Sisterly Love,

  3. 3 Yolanda January 1, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Convicting. Happy new year!

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.



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