How many times have you heard that one? The old stereotype built in by years of media, bluster and self-aggrandisation...the “all-powerful” doctor who knew it all, blew everyone away with their knowledge, their skills, their arrogance...whisper it softly perhaps even God like in their ability and demeanour...healers weren't they? They told the patients what to do...and they did. They told the nurses what to do...and it happened. A paternalistic model doesn't develop overnight, does it?
But then times changed...the world changed...patients, quite rightly, found their voice, became more inquisitive about their care, tried to know more about why their care may have faltered….and then found their Gods, self-styled or otherwise, wanting. And as sure as what happens when you see your hero or deity slip, obeisance changed to disappointment, disappointment then moved to anger. How dare they? How dare they fail their duties? The disappointment in seeing these God like creatures be fallible, be prone to the same errors as others, with the same foibles hurt...the angst was palpable. But slowly but surely the tide has started to change...even the media has started to move on. Yes, most of the Consultants are still ridiculously charming, handsome, sweeping folks off their feet, but the George Clooneys and Patrick Dempseys were also fallible, with emotions, making mistakes….perception is key, isn't it? How big a role the media plays in the depiction of anything...all you need to look is at the public perception of success of CPRs and the disproportionate attachment to reality.
The bigger question is who wanted the God like status...perhaps it was society in those ages, perhaps it was the desire of some, perhaps it was the wish of many..who knows. What I do know is that in a modern era, that's not a title most young guns who have become Consultants want...(though recently a vascular trainee did do his best to change my romantic view on that) and to be honest, unless we shed such ridiculous artificial notions, you can forget about any level of patient or staff engagement.
Let’s make it crystal clear what doctors are…Human beings, trained to do a specific job, at the cost of the taxpayer. Human beings with exactly the same amount of foibles as anyone else…Possessing the same level of angst, empathy, indifference, passion, tiredness as anyone else. Let’s not elevate them to the level of Gods as I can guarantee you it will, as it already has, end in disappointment.
By the same token, don't say they are servants either. That implies lesser rights than others, a person at the whim of others, a person who must serve their masters, come day, night or otherwise. Let me repeat again...they are human beings with same needs, same desire to sit down with their families at end of day, same need to enjoy the latest Marvel movie and talk silly with their kids, same interest to go out with their friends and enjoy a drink or two. I know there are many who like to label themselves as servants, public servants, servant leaders…wrong terminology, wrong perception- and by your evangelism, you tar the majority who are struggling to battle the everyday pressures while balancing their own lives. Use that tag...you can kiss engagement goodbye too. They/We are paid by the tax payers...do please hold us to account but don't give us tags that create an illusion.
The system, as I say, with any topic of discussion, is always like a pendulum….swinging from one extreme to another. Yesterday’s God needs to be todays servant is the chant- the reality is that patient engagement or staff engagement, as always, is a 2 way street. Treat patients with respect, they engage….doctors are no different either. I am pretty sure I echo many when I say I am no God, neither am I anyone’s servant. Just a professional trying to do his job, with passion and desire to improve patient care. On the way, mistakes will be made and all one can promise is to learn from that and make things better.
Treat me as a God….absolute power in the end corrupts absolutely…treat me as a servant…in the words of Charles De Gaulle..”In order to be come the master, the politician poses as the servant”.
I have no desire for that either. Have a great week ahead.