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On being a patient 

On being a patient
On being a patient

Christopher Booth

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date: 19 September 2021

Those who practise medicine should remember that we are all patients at some time, but particularly at the beginning and end of our lives. Even distinguished professors and historians of medicine are not spared, as this account reveals. Doctors and those who manage and organize health services must recognize that patients may find it difficult to access care when they need it; that rapid relief of pain, by whatever means is appropriate, is absolutely crucial; that patients are often faced by a bewildering number of staff, who rotate on and off duty, and continuity of care is important—being looked after by a doctor or nurse whom you get to know and who understands your illness is essential for morale; that apparently simple procedures such as venesection or urinary catheterization require explanation, since they may cause great distress; that despondency mounts when there is unaccountable delay in carrying out scheduled procedures. Practical and important though many procedures are, requiring both skill and experience, for the patient, nothing can replace the compassion and sympathy that the caring professions owe the afflicted. So many aspects of excellent practice stem from these simple human qualities, which thankfully survive despite the strong business ethic that pervades medicine in many countries today. One other lesson remains. If you are a physician, no matter how important you may think you are, you should, so far as your own illnesses are concerned, consider yourself a layman....

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