Column: Don't forget healthcare's human element

Humans are not items on a conveyor belt; therefore we should not be treated as though we are. One of the industries that seems to be most guilty of labeling people as numbers rather than people is the world of healthcare. 

Personally, I have had the displeasure of enduring a myriad doctors visits where the doctor was in the room for all of three minutes, allowing no time for questions, comments, or clarifications. Of course, this makes sense from the doctor’s point of view—the faster each patient visit goes, the more patients that can be seen in one day and the higher the day’s profit will be. But is profit really the entire goal of healthcare? It's undeniable that a comfortable salary is one of the enticing factors for choosing a career in healthcare, but there ought to at least be some sort of desire to help others and improve their quality of life—right?

I have wanted to become a pediatrician for as long as I can remember. As I’ve grown up, I've encountered more and more doctors who could care less about the individual patient and only concern themselves with the bigger picture. I've become increasingly motivated to become a doctor because I know how annoying it is to be treated as a number and I know I could ensure that none of my patients ever felt that way. An entirely comfortable salary is achievable without having to rush through every patient. The difference in money made granting patients three minutes of time and granting a patient 10 minutes of time is not immense—the doctor will still be able to put food on his or her family’s table, guaranteed.

I've also noticed a pattern of dismissive attitudes that many doctors have towards younger patients. Patients under 25 who have any sort of complaint are often dismissed as “dramatic” or “too sensitive”—especially young female patients with older male doctors, in my experience. These patients are oftentimes encouraged to ignore symptoms that could, in reality, be indicative of a real issue.

Visiting the doctor is usually a stress-inducing experience for most people, as it often means there are concerns about one’s health and well-being. It should be the healthcare provider’s job to ease these concerns, take the time to listen to the issues being voiced and ultimately make the patient feel as though their worries matter and will be tended to.

I recently got my wisdom teeth removed and the dentist (who also happens to be a doctor), literally slid into the operating room on a swivel chair, skidded to a stop next to my chair and poised his needle-armed hand above my mouth. No “hello,” no “how are you,” no “are you ready,” no “any questions on what to expect before we start?” He was in the room for 10 minutes, pulled all four teeth and walked out. That was it. At the risk of slightly overdramatizing the situation, it felt a bit dehumanizing. I was already anxious about the removal of my teeth, and he sure didn’t help that.

From a more local standpoint, at UA Campus Health Service, it's especially important for the providers to treat each patient as an individual and allow his or her concerns to be voiced and evaluated. Many treatable diseases or conditions manifest in college-age students, such as schizophrenia and depression and should not be diminished or ignored.

In my very limited experience with Campus Health, I've not walked out with that feeling of being treated as a number; so as far as I know, they are not as guilty of such a disservice. However, I could it see it being hard to handle the quantity of students at peak times of the year, and those are the times when it is most vital for the doctors and nurses to be reminded that humans are humans, with emotions and worries that matter, and thus, we must each be treated as such.


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