I was hoppin' around LinkedIn today and came across this article by Dennis K. Berman, Business Editor of the Wall Street Journal, entitled "Nurses, Not Doctors, are the Future of Medicine."
If you don't feel like reading the entire (short) article, the gist is this: technological advances are taking over the role that doctors play - diagnosing and creating an appropriate treatment plan. But caring and empathy are still important parts of the healing process. Therefore, nurses - who, let's be honest, do more caring and empathy work than doctors in the allopathic world - are the future of medicine.
From the article:
Perhaps this will be a small and strange change of our technological future: A world that venerates the nurse's credo more than the doctor's intellect.
My response: I agree that empathy and caring are an important and irreplaceable part of the healing process.
However - in our current system, nurses are under pressure too, and often don't get the time required for true caring relationships to blossom. The "nurse's credo" is succumbing to the pressures of our dysfunctional health care system.
Is caring dead? No.
In my experience and opinion the reason alternative and complementary care have grown so rapidly in this country is that skills such as listening, respect for the patient's strengths, and creating a healing partnership are front and center in most of these paradigms of care, in a way that does not exist (or has been lost?) in Western medicine. These paradigms take caring and empathy to a new level, flattening the hierarchy of the allopathic medical model and positioning patients as the drivers in their own care, with health care providers performing the roles of educator, consultant and supporter.
I have a thought to share with Mr Berman.
Why not use the exciting technological advances of medicine outlined in the article to free up healthcare providers to prioritize and further develop this emerging model of "caring," the amalgamation and refinement of the skills I mentioned above?
Yes, healthcare does and should include calming nervous family members and doing the dirty work of changing sheets and dealing with blood and urine, as Mr Berman describes, and there will never be a replacement for doing that in a loving, compassionate manner. And yet - our theory of what caring is and what it can accomplish can be so much more.
Even if we place an emphasis on this new, more robust model of caring, I do not believe that doctors need leave their intellect behind. Their intellectual power has led to the creation of much of this emerging technology, technology that plays a crucial part in the improvement of health outcomes; technology that is a form of caring in and of itself.
I propose this:
If we as a nation develop and support a new paradigm of caring, and unite it with a continuously growing body of knowledge, we can create a more powerful and successful medical system than any that has come before us.
Instead of nurses being the future of medicine,
Caring is the future of medicine.