I’ll never forget the social worker who came to visit me in hospital, a few short days after my diagnosis. She asked me if I was feeling anything in particular after my diagnosis. Angry? Depressed? Wanting to talk? She even asked if Mum and Dad needed to leave the room. I had to convince her that I was feeling fine, as she didn’t seem to want to believe me.
It still frustrates me today that this was the way that these emotional issues were dealt with.
Having the social worker come in like that made me feel isolated. Her presence, and her questions that day were based on assumptions that I did not appreciate. I didn’t feel like a normal patient. It didn’t make these issues feel normal. Even if I was feeling something that day, I certainly didn’t feel comfortable discussing it in front of a stranger who thought she knew me.
What really frustrates me, is the fact that I had been surrounded by medical professionals for days in the hospital. Doctors, nurses, dieticians, specialists. Yet I can’t recall one of them asking me how I was. I don’t mean my blood glucose levels. Or the hospital food. Or why I didn’t eat my white bread sandwich before bed. I mean how I was feeling after a diagnosis with a condition that would affect me for the rest of my life.
The healthcare professionals I was surrounded by at the time were the ones I felt most comfortable around. While I certainly don’t expect them to fill the role of a counsellor or a friend, I don’t think it’s too much to ask them to look at the whole patient. To simply ask something like “how’s it all going.” To show some empathy, where necessary. To help me feel normal, and understood. Sometimes, that’s all we need. Other times, they can help us find greater support.
During last Tuesday’s OzDOC chat, there was a debate over whether patients felt that they were on the same level as a healthcare professional during consultations. I believe that this is a very individual issue, that comes down to both the patient and the healthcare professional.
Some patients contribute to feeling on the same level as a healthcare professional. They are very motivated, switched on, and not afraid to speak up or search for what they want. However we are all different, and not everyone is as vocal in nature.
This is where it is the responsibility of a healthcare professional to make the patient feel on the same level. Some healthcare professionals I have encountered certainly don’t seem to live in the real world where day to day management of diabetes is concerned. Some lack the ability to look beyond what’s written in the charts for an explanation.
Yet other healthcare professionals are able to discuss diabetes management in a very supportive and constructive manner. They are able to motivate the patient and praise their self management behaviours. They are able to see the whole patient.
When emotional wellbeing is prioritised in my diabetes care, I feel motivated to improve on what is contained in my chart. My healthcare professional only needs to put down that chart for a moment, and take a look at the whole patient sitting in front of it.