Dr. Donald Berwick’s 2010 graduation speech at Yale was an inspiring call for all future doctors to be healers, not just elements in the mechanism of the medical system. He shared his personal experience of being at his wife’s C-section and witnessing his daughter’s birth and described the experience of a woman who was not allowed to spend with her dying husband his last days. People end up in the hospital in a wounded state – confused, terrified, depressed, experiencing one of the worst periods in their lives. Patients need moral support as much as they need medical treatment since it is undeniable that the patient’s condition directly affects the treatment outcomes.
Dr. Berwick’s speech will always be relevant since the problem of balance between rules and relationships will always be acute in medicine. Medical workers deal not only with the body and health of a person but also with his psychological state and personality. Excess to work and the need to follow strict requirements are causing doctors and nurses to burn out and become “someone who put the i.v. first, and the soul second” (Berwick, 2010, p. 4). Dr. Berwick described in his speech the power that medical professionals are endowed with; their ability to directly influence the quality and length of life of their patients. “That choice is not in the hands of nameless power”, he said, meaning that all medical workers need to take personal responsibility for treating patients as human beings (Berwick, 2010, p. 6). Sometimes doctors and nurses forget that they are not treating a disease but a person.
Professional nurses can serve as a link between doctors and patients, be negotiators and convey the patient’s needs. Nurses have a more permanent and close relationship with the patient; they can attend to personal needs and characteristics. Sometimes it is enough to ask the patient if something is causing them discomfort or if they have any questions. Patients trust healthcare professionals and want to know they are seen and their needs are considered.
Berwick, Donald M. “Yale Medical School Graduation Speech.” Speech presented at Yale Medical School Graduation, New Haven, Connecticut, 2010. URL.