LIFE Before Death #30: Bedside Manner

2011 December 9
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Award Winning LIFE Before Death

Short Film 30 of 50 in the LIFE Before Death documentary series about the global crisis in untreated pain and the dramatic life changing affect palliative care services can deliver to patients and their families around the world.

In “Bedside Manner”¬†we discover the importance of bedside manner and the benefits of a caring interpersonal approach by health professionals as it relates to the quality of life for their patients.

“Often modern medicine is quite reductionist,” reflects Dr Natalya Dinat (South Africa). “It goes down to the molecular. So we tend therefore to concentrate often on ‘the liver’, or what’s happening in ‘the brain’. And we forget that people are more than that. Even if you put all of those parts together you still don’t get a person – we’re greater than the sum of our parts. The pain area recognizes that. So it’s a fascinating area because with a basic approach, and a compassionate approach, we’re able to really make a difference in people’s lives.”

“What patients really appreciate when they come to us is that we see them as people,” continues Dr Dinat. “And we see them as people operating within a family, and within a household, and within a community. We don’t see them as, you know, the lung cancer case in bed three.”

“The easy thing to do is to walk away and leave that person to die alone,” challenges Mary Callaway (USA).

“I’ve watched doctors change over the years,” observes Dr David Morrison (Canada). “And we’ve now encouraged some of the medical staff to be much more sensitive and stop hiding behind the mechanics of their trade.”

“To reduce the barrier between a white-jacket person and a patient who is in so much pain and emotional distress, I feel more comfortable placing myself at the same level as them and not to be towering over them,” reports Dr Rosa Tickoo (India).

“We hear from the patient side all the time; ‘If my doctor could be more open with me, be more transparent, tell me what’s going on, not avoid eye contact, don’t be afraid to touch me’,” continues Dr Morrison.

“So many times when people get to the point of days or hours from death, everybody stands back,” reflects Callaway. “The health care professionals, the doctors, will come in but never touch them. And you can see a patient’s eyes light up when that doctor just sits down, looks at them eye-to-eye – not hovering over them – and reaches out and touches them. It’s that personal connection. But we haven’t taught doctors how to do that. And once you teach them that – once you give them that skill it’s incredible to see how much that empowers them.”

Featuring: Dr Natalya Dinat (South Africa), Dr Rosa Tickoo (India), Mary Callaway (USA), Dr David Morrison (Canada), Hugo (USA).

If you’ve missed previous episodes, catch up on the LIFE Before Death website…

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