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February Q-Wave: The Beauty of Medicine: Don’t Miss the Forest from the Trees

John Bielinski, MS PA-C By February 23, 2023No Comments

​​What prevents you from seeing the forest from the trees? The “forest” is the healthcare field. The “forest” is the beauty of taking care of patients. There is no more noble or honorable calling. We are taking care of patients when they are most desperate, scared, sick, ill, or worried. We are preventing disease. 

The “trees” are the problems that prevent us from providing the care to the patients that is needed. On a scale from 1-10, how much do you enjoy your job? What are the trees that stand in front of you preventing you from seeing the beauty in your job? Is it that you work with a doctor that you don’t relate to or that you don’t feel appreciated? Is it the manage care model or formularies? Is it a difficult patient population or complicated staff interactions? What prevents you from seeing the beauty in what we do? 

When we clear away the trees, at the most fundamental level, we are caring for these people’s lives and there is not a more noble profession. 

What percentage of patients do you truly, deeply affect? Out of a hundred patients, how many do you truly make a difference to? Whether it is kindness, a particular diagnosis or therapy? What percent of patients do you truly and deeply affect their lives? When I first started developing this lecture, out of 100 people in the emergency room, I believe I made a difference in about 2% of patients. Out of 100 patients I may see in a week’s time, I believe 2% would cross the mall to come shake my hand and say thank you, and really appreciate my interaction with them. Let’s explore what “2%” really means. 

I have seen over 100,000 patients in my career of twenty-five years! If I only made a difference to 2% of my patients, then I would have made a difference to over 2,000 families! Have you ever been somebody’s miracle? 

Have you ever really made a difference? 

When my son Matthew was born, I was excited. I knew it was going to be a boy. I was happy, things were good. When my ex-wife’s water broke, we took her to the hospital and we were being taken care of by two experienced labor and delivery nurses. You could tell they were seasoned veterans. They were confident and friendly and they knew their stuff. The doctor came in and told me that everything looks good and I was going to have another son today. Life was good. 

Then everything changed…

Suddenly there were declarations on the fetal heart monitor. The nurses whipped my wife on her side and did a quick exam as they called the doctor stat. I don’t read fetal heart monitors, but I read nurses. I knew that they were scared, and I knew enough about medicine that I was aware that at the moment, my son is dying. The cord was either prolapsed or wrapped around his neck. His brain was not getting enough oxygen. I knew there was nothing I could do. I never felt so helpless, so hopeless… there was nothing I could do. 

Then in walked my ex’s OB-GYN. He assessed the circumstances and saw me hanging by a string. He finally said, “John, look at me.” I snapped out of my daze. He said, “I am going to take your (ex) wife in for a c-section. There is a risk of bleeding and infection, but that is not going to happen, and you are going to have a baby today.” 

Then he was gone, along with the nursing staff and my wife. I was a blubbering mess at that point, praying, please save my baby. Next thing I know, I am helped into scrubs and hustled into the OR. I saw our doctor working like a sushi-chef, and the next thing I saw was Matthew – crying, pink, and healthy. I asked for a miracle and got my (ex) wife’s doctor. My question is, have you been somebody’s miracle?

But wait, we don’t do c-sections as physician assistants! We don’t do surgery like this. I want you to change your perspective on what a miracle really is. Picture five years down the road and you are looking down into an ICU room – you see a patient that you know well, who is now on a ventilator. You watch as an intensivist walks into the room and presents the news to the family. The family all huddled together as the doctor states there is nothing more he can do, and he states, “your father is going to die tonight.” They all start to cry. The doctor then leaves, and you stay with the family throughout the night. You are still watching as you see the patient’s seven year old son drop to his knees and pray for his father to not die, asking for a miracle. “Please save my Dad, send me a miracle.” 

Now let’s rewind back to today. Same patient, but you are the provider that got their diabetes under control so he didn’t have a heart attack. You are the provider that controlled his blood pressure, so he didn’t have his stroke. You are the provider that ordered the colonoscopy that found the polyp that did not turn into metastatic cancer. You are the provider that got him to quit smoking and prevented his lung cancer. So, my question again is, have you ever been somebody’s miracle? The answer is, more than you will ever know. You don’t know how far out you affect patients. Every single patient interaction is like dropping a pebble into water. You don’t know the ripple effect it may have. How far the ripples go, with every kindness – with courtesy – with every time you go that extra mile for your patients. So, if you are wondering if you were ever a miracle to someone the answer is more than you will ever know.

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