I have always been attracted to blank-paged, beautifully bound journals. I must own at least 30 of them, most untouched. It is the first place I go, in fact, when I enter a bookstore. Despite all the works of authors lining shelves in front of me, with beautiful glossy covers and eye-catching names, I am drawn to the empty void of the unlined journal. Just recently, I was reminded of why this was. Standing in front of a particularly beautiful aisle of Italian leather bound blank books, I whispered to myself, “I have a story to tell.” The response came back to me as a chill up and down my spine, which I have over the last several years come to translate as a sign that what I am thinking or meaning at the moment of that feeling means that I am “on the right track.” A warm fuzzy like this speaks volumes, just as butterflies in the stomach or a lump in the throat can.
I wasn’t always enamored with personalizing blank books off of a bookstore shelf; I used to make my own. As a child, I would fold neat piles of printer paper at it’s middle, stapling it at the crease point, and fill it with all the information and illustrations about my pets, birds seen on birdwatching trips, or some other subject that was important to me. Through adolescence, I would capture vacations, fitness training regimens, and my lessons learned in training sessions with my horse.
Now, however, I feel pulled towards recording instances of my life which reflect the change in perception I have experienced since 2006. This was the year when I prayed earnestly to be led in the direction of needing answers to the real workings of the world. Since then, I have been blessed by consciously receiving answers during prayer. I also receive insight after dreams which relay a lesson or meaning upon waking, that I capture by jotting down on a notepad. I receive wisdom everywhere, because I have asked for it, and continue to actively listen for it. Sometimes it is in the form of a book or introspective moment, which contains just the answer to the question I had in mind. I am blessed with all the information and experience that I could possibly handle, which continues to this day, and which will never be complete.
The following stories of patient encounters are a first attempt to outline how I am applying the information I have received in the day to day visits with my patients. These most recent patient encounters take place at a regular clinic, where I do work as an independently contracting family medicine physician. The clinics are: occupational medicine, wellness/preventative clinics, family medicine, and/or urgent care, with minor trauma care capabilities. My writing, like my patient encounters, seem to take on a life of it’s own at times, but I am glad to put my fingers on the keyboard, and give this task of recording these memories, the effort it deserves.
In residency, a faculty member was describing me to a fellow colleague, and said, “you know, she is the one that is nice to her patients. How could I be otherwise? I had been a patient myself. And what’s more, I was intricately woven into my patient’s lives in the military, as a Flight Surgeon for 5 years, with a deep learned connection to my troops that made all the difference. I trusted them to bring me back safely after missions, and they trusted me to always be attuned. Returning from the military, I found that, in the academic settings, this is not as well understood. A separation is placed between doctor and patient. I am here as a testimony that this space need not exist.
Doctors have a snap judgement process of patients which starts in the brain, and is, as a result, always short sighted and lacking. Pilots, on the other hand, make snap judgements, but use, instead, their gut, or instinct. The benefit of this is that the gut always acts “in the moment,” so at least, it can be a proper tool for immediate perception. The highest level of snap judgement we can make, however, is through our heart. It is when we walk in with an open heart, that the real “lay of the land” is made known to us. Seeing through the eyes of love not only opens awareness to what is, but dissolves self protective mechanisms held by both the doctor AND the patient. Meeting in this space creates a new realm of true potential. When the more well known means are used, one can only choose from a small array of potential solutions.
The ironic nature of this type of encounter is that it may look completely the same as the other type of encounters, with similar, if not identical, patient records or notes, generated. The difference lies in the unseen; a formidable, empathic connection formed, from which full potential is possible. In upholding this balance with a patient encounter, you remind them the possibility of non-judgement and heartfelt awareness, or, emotional intelligence, and, if they choose, may begin to apply it, in their own life. For we all know that the strongest teaching example is in being what you teach!
Armed with new skills in which to see the world, a patient now has new keys to the locked vaults in their life, and a remembrance of their potential for wellness ensues. Fostering a patient relationship in this way, directs them to their own doctor within.
© 2014 Amy Coleman, MD. All rights reserved.