I have been a medical doctor for over fifteen years. About thirteen years ago I had my first child. Those first two years of practising medicine, I would see anxious parents with their sick children, at the time I did not realise but I could not really fully appreciate their concerns. Not really identifying that look on mum’s face, where any parent will instantly recognize that they’ve been up all night with a feverish child or a vomiting baby. Once I had my own children I was able to use a very powerful tool in my consultations, I was able to practice empathy.
The Society for General Internal Medicine defines empathy as “the act of correctly acknowledging the emotional state of another without experiencing that state oneself.’ In layman terms empathy builds patient trust, makes them comfortable, reduces anxieties and patients are able to disclose.
I began to understand, I knew what these mothers were feeling; their worries there could be something seriously wrong with their baby and appreciate how exhausted they were. I took that little bit of extra time, a luxury most GPs do not always have even if they wanted to. And for those first time mothers, I spent extra time reassuring them. Parenthood has no manual it’s daunting suddenly taking care of this extra being.
This is not to say that doctors without children are not empathetic doctors but for my personal journey, I was able to use my own experiences in a positive way. I understood if a mother was running late, it’s not easy getting everyone out of the door in time; just getting them to put their shoes and coat on is a mission!
Modern NHS has put pressures on doctors in all sorts of way. Patients needs and expectations have increased in an alarming way. With the best will in the world we would love to spend time getting to know the person who is sitting in front of us. For now there are other tools at my disposal. I can try make a consultation more effective drawing on experiences of motherhood, to help my patient.
About the guest author, Afrosa from www.mum2sons.com: