Saturday, August 14, 2004


As Americans, we've become a nation of control freaks addicted to instant gratifcation. Everything has become an issue about time and speed. Drive thru's offer instant food, microwaves for instant reheating, ATM's for instant money, lotteries for instant wealth, higher speed limits, faster downloads, more more more!

Living in an affluent country with abundances in technology and resources, Americans have become accustomed to being able to obtain and fulfill their various wants. Nowhere else in the world, except maybe in France, does a population of people think that society owes them something. That they are entitled to the best that the world has to offer, and if they cannot have the ideal, then they have been cheated. The concept "to earn" has dissipated, replaced by "should get." Working hard to achieve success is only something that a small subset of the American population hold to be true. America wants the best, wants it now, and wants it delivered on a silver platter.

But all this changes once a person enters a hospital as a patient. Stripped (literally) of their usual comforts and placed in a sterile and unfeeling environment, the only constant from their home life remains their illness, which the doctors are also working hard to remove. So what a patient does all day is think about their lack of control and their illness that placed them in their current condition.

We, as physicians, nurses, and ancillary staff, know of this stress that patients face, and do our best to give them back some form of control. This usually entails full disclosure of their medical conditions and pending avenues of treatment. If there are treatment options, of which there are not many in surgical cases, we give the patients the ability to choose. The majority of the time, patients have very little knowledge of their medical condition or just lack the ability to fully comprehend the impending consequences of their treatment options, and end up relinquishing their control of their medical treatment back over to the physicians for fear of further exacerbating their condition, giving up what last bit of control they had.

Many times, as the sense of helplessness and frustration builds, patients will often transfer this energy by lashing out at family members, nurses, or physicians.

Even though I can rationalize and understand the reasoning behind this unwelcomed animosity, it still doesn't make it any easier to tolerate. Being accused of not doing my best to care for somebody... I think that hurts the most.