The best doctor doesn’t know how I feel

Maatwerk ouderdomspakThank goodness! My neurologist doesn’t know what my sluggish hand feels like. He has no idea how it feels to crawl out of bed, stiff as a board. Neither does my occupational therapist. Yet, despite not knowing what it feels like to have parkinson’s, my neurologist does know how to help me. That’s why he’s a doctor. Every day he sees dozens of patients in his surgery. And when he sees me, he knows exactly how to help. Same goes for my occupational therapist. Speech therapist too. As well as all those other people who don’t have parkinsons but who provide the best suited care nonetheless.

Putting yourself in your patient’s shoes?

Totally unnecessary, as far as I’m concerned. I mean, imagine if healthcare professionals could only help you if they had your condition themselves?
Even if only for 5 minutes. That 5 minutes would be a real rollercoaster ride, that’s for sure. Wooooow, what a powerful sensation, especially when that car starts to shake. What should we do in the meantime? Grab a cup of coffee? And what would you say to your next patient? Well, I know exactly how you feel, because I just spent 5 minutes in a wooden straigthjacket. So, now that I know how you really feel, I’m even more determined to help.
Right. I don’t think so.

Putting yourself in your patient’s shoes simply isn’t possible

I recently thought: right, I’m going to put myself in my GP’s shoes. Just for 5 minutes or so. It was actually a bit boring, so I upgraded to dentist. Now that WAS fun! I hovered over a random patient’s mouth with that drill (switched on for the sound effects) for a full 5 minutes. Then I went shopping.

We recently had friends over. First they froze while cleaning the kitchen counter and then collapsed halfway through dinner. Why? Because they were putting themselves in my shoes. They also sat on our washing machine, as full spin mimics a tremor nicely. Did they really do that? No, of course not!

I recently saw a film clip of someone putting themselves in the parkinson’s patient’s shoes for 5 minutes. THE parkinson’s patient. But anyway, what a cool old age suit! Wait a minute. Did I get that right? Old age suit? Yes, that’s really what it said. Of course. Innovative design, German manufacturer. Simulates stiffness, visual impairment, slowness and a couple of other things. Originally intended to help in the design of care homes and care facilities, it has been temporarily fashioned into a parkinson’s suit.

Facebook comments by doctors

The Facebook comments were rather unexpected: “I can’t see any difference. LOL” or “haha, now you know what it’ll feel like to do a running competition in 30 years.” Forget about the use of Facebook by healthcare professionals and forget about the Royal Dutch Medical Association’s guidelines on appropriate social media use, forget even about how patients might feel.
That suit doesn’t put me in mind of me or any other parkinson’s patient. That’s bad enough as it is, but what is worse: it doesn’t remind me of any neurologist or occupational therapist or any other parkinson’s professional at all. Be it doctor, or any other healthcare professional.
Professionals devising clever plans for funding, research and integrated care. Doctors who go out of their way to make time for their patients in the consultation room.
That suit does not remind me of any of this at all. Nor do the fb comments actually.

If you insist on putting yourself in my shoes

Okay then. Imagine you organise a conference. Everything is in place for a truly inspirational day. A great program, with all the trimmings. You and all of the other healthcare professionals are raring to go. You jump on stage, everything is going according to plan and then, baf! You fall off the podium. Several broken bones later, you’re carted away. At first we think it’s only a little pause, a small interlude. But turns out your conference just isn’t meant to be. Not going to happen – not today, not next year, not ever.

So, even though you’re so good at what you do, even though you tried so hard to do your best, even though it was such an ideal opportunity to share all of your expertise with like-minded professionals, the entire conference is cancelled.

The hall full of people empties disconsolately outside. What now? Fortunately, a team of patients turn up. They know how it feels to deal with perpetual disappointment. They know how it feels to be forced to abandon their plans. Also known as the Parkinson’s Effect.

Role reversal

The patients think hard and come up with a ground-breaking idea. They organise a conference. And to show that they know exactly what the conference healthcare professionals go through, they also lay on a bungee jump. So that you can fall off stage too. A great reality experience.

Only pulling your leg, of course. Patients don’t organise conferences with bungee jumps. Because that’s not necessary for a healthy patient / care provider relationship. Because you can be a perfectly good care provider without feeling what the patient feels. You can be a perfectly good patient without knowing what it feels like to turn up to a crowded clinic with the knowledge that you cannot cure one single patient. Yet still giving each and every one of them the courage to never give up.

Nice suit. Tailor-made?

What suit they’re wearing? A tailor-made care suit. All those healthcare professionals working day in day out for their patients, they’re wearing tailor made care suits. Tailor-made for the wearer and customised for the patient.

Suits them both well, as it happens.