For many years as a manager in the National Health Services I listened to regular complaints from doctors and nurses that things were ‘measured’ so much nowadays that it left them with little or no quality time to spend with patients.
The obsession of accountants and managers to measure everything often overlooks what is sometimes referred to as the ‘softer’ stuff.
That 'stuff' which I believe is at the heart of excellent healthcare - the ‘art’ of listening and most of all spending quiet time with patients.
Of course in the modern world everyone is busy and of course we have to be efficient with our time. I don’t believe I am seeing the world through rose tinted glasses when I suggest we can learn from stories like the one re-produced below.
I would ask you to read this carefully at least twice and ask whether this is the sort of experience we should aspire to in the world of healthcare.
This is all about the gift of time and attention
The story is told of the visit of Yeshi Dhonden, the personal physician to the Dalai Lama, to a hospital in Connecticut. The notice was posted saying that at 6.00 am the next morning he would make his rounds and any doctors were invited to observe him.
Promptly at 6.00 am the next morning he appeared in the room of a woman patient to examine her. There were no signs or obvious symptoms to give the clue to the nature of her disease. Dressed in a sleeveless saffron robe, the short tubby man whose only visible hair was his eyebrows stood and looked at the patient for twenty minutes. Not a word was spoken. Not a soul moved in the room. Then Yeshi Dhonden moved forward to the bed took the woman’s hand and with his head drawn down into the collar of his robe, he closed his eyes and listened to her pulse for, half an hour.
One woman doctor observing said “All at once I began to feel envious – not of Yeshi Dhonden and his skills, but of the patient. I wanted to be held like that, touched so, received.”
As the Tibetan reached the door, he turned and bowed to the patient. Still no word had been spoken in fifty minutes, but at last she broke the silence. “Thank you” she called out “Oh thank you.”
Extract from ‘The Choice’ by Sister Kirsty
Hodder Christian Paperbacks 1982