I was still a resident in training when this particular incident happened while doing our morning rounds: one of the patient’s relatives approached us and asked what time a certain surgeon will do his rounds, politely we informed him that we are not surgery residents and maybe he should ask the assistance of the ward nurses. So in a not so subtle voice he proceeded to ask within hear shot of everyone around, “Who is the nurse in charge? Yung alalay niya? ” to quote him verbatim. Loosely translated, he was looking for the “aide”, absurd at it may be, as nurses are professional as well. Anyway, his reason for wanting to see the surgeon was that he wanted to talk to him before seeing the patient and telling her about the biopsy results. According to the relative, since he’s “just” a doctor (“doctor lang siya”), he wouldn’t understand the patient’s needs and emotional state and just give the medical mumbo jumbo of the disease and would nary a care about how the patient feels. I’ve heard enough. I went to proceed with the morning rounds thinking, is this just an outlier or do all other patient relatives feel the same way? I rather hope not, but if that is the way that they do see doctors in general, then that means as a doctor myself, this should be a wake-up call. As all the medical science I have learned in residency training will have boiled down to nothing if I forget the basic tenet of why we are here in the first place: to treat the patient and not the disease, if not cure him of his illness in the very least alleviate him of his sufferings.
The other issue here that I would like to raise is how the relative have belittled our colleagues in the medical profession, namely the nurses. Here we clearly see that the relative downgraded the nursing profession to co-equals in treating the patient to simple being a doctor’s assistant. The world is far from perfect, but it would be so much more a better place if we could set aside our own prejudice and stereotypes of what people are and what they are capable of doing. Nurses are our allies in making sure that our patients get better, and most of the time they do most of the work even if they are understaffed, underpaid and worse, unappreciated. Just to repeat the point, nurses are not our aides, they are our partners in healthcare. And for some us lofty doctors, this story should serve us well to be reminded that our profession is that of humble service. In good days, when we have accolades and praises when we do our job right, should just be viewed as a reward for a job well done. Same way as when we did all we could but things didn’t turn out for the better. We may strive to be, but we are not God to begin with, only his instruments in doing his will. Take it in stride, tomorrow is another day.