An interesting thing happened to one of my classmates earlier this week, and she was humble enough to share her perspective with a group of us: On another typical early morning pre-rounds, she went in to check in on her patient. And before she left, she thanked the patient for providing themselves as a learning opportunity and a chance to share their wisdom. When she came back into the room during rounds with the rest of the team, she found that the patient would thank the team for providing good healthcare to him. As she shared her story with us, we all instinctively nodded, thinking how this has happened to us and our patients.
It’s a unique dynamic, for us to be thanking our patients, and our patients to be thanking us. The patients at their most vulnerable are taking part of their treatment to allow us as students to appreciate a good murmur, to identify rales for the first time, to see what a 3/5 MSK exam looks like. And for most patients, it gives them a sense of paying it forward. And the patients, when given the opportunity to teach about their disease, would go all in. One patient with a history of rheumatoid arthritis talked about just how painful and humiliating it is to grasp a fork. Another patient with cellulitis talked about her pain tolerance, and when she decided she couldn’t avoid seeing the doctor for “her rash.” In the wards, our patients become our professors. It’s truly humbling.
So I thank each of my patients every day. I don’t know if it makes a difference (it would be an interesting study to see if patients’ outcomes or satisfaction varied based on being on an academic service), but nevertheless, I’ll still do it.