The ‘_______ people are people too’ lectures and other topics that should be common sense

Every rotation we seem to get another round of lectures with the overarching theme of *insert demographic here* are people too. The most recent one I had was regarding elderly patients. I had, perhaps naively, thought the lecture would involve practical tips in managing elderly patients and their specific health requirements, with maybe a dusting of ‘remember elderly patients have sex lives too so don’t be coy about asking’. A summary of the actual lecture was ‘elderly people are people too’. No practical teaching tips, no practice points, not even any fun stories about sex-crazed seniors.

 

Old people

OLD PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE TOO! Who knew?!

 

Every rotation we have days of these lectures and tutes. I start to get sick of it. To clarify, for fear of sounding callous and uncaring, I thought it was OBVIOUS that we should treat everyone with respect and dignity. I honestly thought it was common sense that the ‘I want to study medicine to help people’ spiel everyone went through in interviews meant we should maybe help all people, PARTICULARLY those in minority groups with special health needs. I know there’s the occasional asshat who goes into medicine for the money or prestige but on the whole I like to think we’re a pretty decent bunch. And if that asshat has gone their whole life so far treating other people like lesser beings for whatever reason, is a lecture at 8am on a Monday really going to change that?

 

These classes are about on par with the “*insert specialty here* is good and worth your time” lectures from preclinical years *cough public health* – I KNOW public health works and I KNOW it saves lives but nobody thinks so because its not the same as a neurosurgeon coming in and saving the day. I GET IT. WE ARE A SMART COHORT OF PEOPLE WE CAN GRASP THE IDEA OF PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE BEING EFFECTIVE. Now can you go ahead and tell me how I can implement that into clinical practice?

What can we take from these?

Maybe these lectures would frustrate me less if they had more practical content – methods of actually helping special health groups rather than just telling us that it’s something we should think about doing. I know there’s a problem and I was under the impression we might get taught ways to combat it.

 

So we (I) rant and rave and write angry blog posts and get frustrated that we’re stuck in lectures telling us that (surprise surprise) older patients should be treated with respect. Why does it keep happening? Why do these classes continue to be vague and idealistic?

When I actually sat down to think about it I’m a little peeved to say it did kinda make sense (nobody is more annoyed than I about this trust me). Why? If you’ve done any length of clinical placement I’d say you could think for a little while and come up with it too. It all boils own to one beautiful shade of green. Jade.

Or rather being jaded.

 

Sadly we’ve all seen the jaded clinicians who forget that their patients are people too – they do their job but the passion is gone and the patient care inevitably suffers. More so for groups who are already at risk of poorer health outcomes. I can just imagine the university faculty sitting in a meeting, hearing reports from students horrified at the practice they are seeing, and trying to ensure their precious students don’t turn out like that.

They’re trying, they really are. And who knows, maybe they’re succeeding – maybe in 30 years time I’ll be jaded and all that will be stopping me from dehumanising an elderly patients will be the faint whisper of something that was drilled in to me time and time again in medical school… ‘they’re people too’.

 

How do passionate medical graduates end up jaded and burned-out?

The end game

Whilst it’s not a perfect solution, I suppose it is better than freeing our bright-eyed and bushy-tailed selves out in to the world to forget our human instincts at the first instance. Maybe in the future these lectures will give us methods of dealing with clinicians who are jaded, who do forget their humanity. Maybe we’ll learn how to improve healthcare outcomes for at-risk groups. Or maybe, just maybe, one day our profession will have a look at why thousands of doctors who only wanted to ‘help people’ are burning out and losing their ability to care for patients along the way. Who knows, maybe we need some public health measures to fix the problem (because its good and it works you know).

 

Eva Matthews Staindl

Year 4 medical student

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