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It’s a tempting concept. We healer doctors have knowledge and expertise that can not only assist but even save people’s lives. We are given opportunities to be the right person at the right moment to provide the correct assistance, which may make all the difference. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of our work. It’s also one of its most dangerous traps.
Many doctors refer to ourselves as “healers,” as if we possess some particular ability to help our patients heal. This concept confers a higher rank and is derived, according to some, from a “higher calling” to a more noble life. Again, this is a reasonable move because we have regular opportunities to assist and even save people’s lives. It’s easy to feel that our touch, or even our knowledge, has some sort of healing power.
It isn’t the case. I’m not a doctor or a healer.
The patient, not the doctor, is the one who heals. As a physician, I can undoubtedly assist the patient in finding a speedier path to recovery, but I do not heal. I’m here to assist.
Why am I devoting so much time to this? Why should I be concerned about whether I am a healer or a helper? I believe that treating doctors as healers does enormous harm to both doctors and patients and that gaining a better understanding of each job would considerably enhance the quality of care provided. Here’s why I think this is an important issue to discuss:
1. Doctors Frequently Fail to Heal (And Will Always Ultimately Fail)
General practitioner and young nurse wearing surgical face mask against covid-19 while having a discussion in the hospital hallway. Doctor with face mask discussing patient case status with his medical staff while walking on corridor. Worried busy doctor showing medical report to nurse and wearing a protective face mask with copy space.
Despite my greatest efforts, many of my patients’ ailments do not improve. There are several aches and pains that I am unable to alleviate, as well as numerous difficulties that I am unable to resolve. Even when I achieve, it is only for a short time, since a new problem will always arise. And, if healing is our ultimate purpose as doctors, we’re all failures, because all of our patients die. We are fighting a lost struggle if we choose healing as our aim. We are the Alamo’s warriors, putting up a valiant fight against an overwhelming army.
If I believe in myself as a healer, I will be disappointed and defeated on a regular basis.
2. Healing often occurs without the intervention of healer doctors.
My patient may accept my counsel and not improve, or they could ignore it and recover from their ailment. My guidance is sloppy and flawed since it is based on my knowledge and experience, as well as what I perceive is going on with the patient. However, my knowledge and experience may not be correct, and my perception of what is going on with the patient may be incorrect. Healing takes place within the body of the patient. It’s when people improve, regardless of whether I’m participating in the process.
My faith in myself as a healer is founded on an erroneous assessment of my knowledge and talents.
3. Patients who see doctors as healers have unrealistic expectations.
It’s something I’ve seen. When I tell individuals I can’t repair their problem or take away their misery, they become frustrated. They believe they shouldn’t have to be in pain, or that if something is wrong, it’s because I’ve overlooked something. These are the people who purchase Dr. Oz’s and other profiteers’ “miracle” remedies. They hear the media’s promises of health and wellbeing and are dissatisfied when we can’t deliver.
My patients will get irritated and disillusioned if they believe I am a healer.
4. Doctors who try to heal their patients end up hurting them.
Many doctors practice substandard medicine as a result of the pressure to uncover the “magic bullet” or unifying diagnosis. When confronted with the powerlessness that certain patients bring, we all feel under strain. As a result, needless tests are ordered, operations are performed, and drugs are prescribed that should not be provided. This, I believe, is what motivates many doctors to give narcotic pain relievers and other addictive substances in excess. We don’t want to be powerless; we want to make a difference.
I’m attracted away from my training and toward the challenge of discovering a miracle in order to safeguard my status as a healer. I risk causing severe harm by doing so.
5. In order to maintain their status as healers Any other perceived competition will be challenged by doctors.
In the past, doctors were regarded in high regard by the common populace. We had access to “hidden information” that others didn’t, knowledge that powered our healing abilities. Everyone now has access to not just all of our information, but also to that of those who provide alternatives. As a result, many doctors actively discourage consumers from conducting their own research and criticize other providers. However, in defending their turf, they are presenting patients with a choice: us or them. As a result, an increasing number of people are opting for “them” and rejecting what we have to offer.
Doctors have hurt the public’s faith in our profession by clinging to our authority as healers.
So, what’s the other option? Is it really that important what we name ourselves if we practice medicine? I believe it does. Now that I’ve had some time to consider my options, I’ve discovered that being a helper is a far superior option to becoming a healer.
I know, it seems dull and tedious, but it is not only more realistic, but it is also a far better approach to practice medicine. This is why:
1. I ALWAYS SUCCEED WHEN I HELP OTHERS.
I may not be able to eliminate someone’s pain, but I can help them cope with it. Every visit is an opportunity to assist someone, and once I’ve assisted them, I’ve accomplished something permanent. The disease does not have to be viewed as an opponent to be fought, but rather as a chance to share my expertise and experience with my patient. Even if patients do succumb to death, I have numerous opportunities to assist them in dying peacefully.
2. HELPING OTHERS KEEP MY PRIORITIES CLEAR
I don’t have any irrational notions that I own extraordinary abilities. I don’t feel I’ve been “called” or “selected” to do magic. All I do is assist others. My attention is not on me (as if my care isn’t a show), but on the individual, I’m assisting.
3. BEING A HELPER MAINTAINS REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
My patients will listen to my counsel with new ears if they regard me as an aid rather than a healer. I’m standing next to them, not on top of them. When I give assistance rather than proclaim my expertise, they are significantly more inclined to listen to me.
4. HELPING MEANS NOT HARMING OTHERS.
When I take on the position of aid rather than healer, the desire to give more tests, procedures, or risky medicines is greatly reduced. I don’t see the point in proving myself, and I’ll think about the consequences of my actions far more carefully. I won’t over-prescribe pain relievers since I’ll observe how it ultimately impacts my patients.
5. IN THE INFORMATION AGE, BEING A HELPER ALLOWS ME TO EXIST
Whether I like it or not, I’m compared to TV homeopaths, herbalists, chiropractors, and physicians. People who embrace alternatives to the treatment I provide aren’t necessarily rejecting me; they’re looking for the same thing they are when they come to me: to feel better and have fewer worries about the future. I believe I will win if the assistance I provide is compared to the miracles promised by others. However, if others assist people, I should be grateful for my patients rather than irritated by my “rivals'” success.
What we perform is referred to as “health care,” which suggests a connection centered around a person’s health. The best approach to do this, in my opinion, is to have a realistic picture of who we are and what we do. I’m not a doctor or a healer. I constantly fail and feel disappointed when I try to be one. I am a helper, and in that capacity, I can always find methods to achieve.
Ten junior doctors who have completed the HA course were interviewed. The HA was described by all interviewers as a good and eye-opening event in their medical education. Four primary themes emerged from the thematic analysis: establishing empathy in the doctor-patient relationship, self-care, and self-awareness, building a supportive community, and coping with the demanding medical culture.
HA offers hands-on learning opportunities for participants to learn about humanistic medicine. Junior doctors who chose themselves recall the training as a positive experience and believe they will continue to use HA approaches in the hospital field. Some young doctors believe that the concepts taught in the HA course have influenced their self-reported positive patient-doctor relationships and supportive relationships with medical peers.