I have noticed that patients and health care workers have opportunities that may not be that obvious. How a hospital stay is viewed will have an impact on the outcome for everyone.
Is the hospital a prison or a college for the patient?
As a health care team member, do you think of your patients as inmates or college students? I encourage you to begin to treat your patients as if they were in college, by acknowledging the actions that landed them here, inspiring them to take an active role in their health, and educating them on how they can take action to prevent complications and the worsening of their condition. A successful health care team member is one that recognizes this as the primary goal, and practices this in their role.
As a patient, you are the number one player, the MVP actually, on any health care team. How do you view your hospital stay?
Some of the patients I see tend to view the experience as if it were a prison sentence. Choices they’ve made have now caught up to them. They are here to serve out their punishment as an inmate. Though rehabilitation is possible, reentry is inevitable without some serious changes in lifestyle, and happens more often than not. These patients are here for treatment and treatment alone. Treatment unfortunately, is a reactionary practice, and we all know how reactions can go—some have unexpected outcomes and reactions are more of a gamble.
There are also the patients who participate in their hospital stay as if they were going to college. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, they have made choices that impacted their health, and they have landed in the hospital. Now that they are here, they view it as a gift, a wake up call, a near-miss or a near-loss. While they are here, they work to sponge up all of the knowledge they can, in hopes of learning as much as possible to prevent their condition from getting worse, or to prevent themselves from another condition or disease. These patients want prevention.
Prevention is the action, treatment is the reaction. Everybody plays a part in prevention. Whether it is prevention of a particular disease or unhealthy end, or prevention of further deterioration of an existing disease process, prevention should be the goal of any healthcare facility. Health care workers need to teach prevention and inspire patients to take part in it; patients need to be taught prevention, and inspired to practice it.
Rehabilitation and cure are much harder to come by, much more expensive, and more of a challenge than any prevention will ever be. Prevention can be slow and thoughtful, specific and practiced. Treatment comes at a high price—financially, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually—and is rapid, stressful, and a gamble.
As a health care worker, it is time to recognize and live up to our role. We need to focus on prevention and treat our patients as if they were college students and we were their professors. Their success or failure is directly related to our ability to teach them and to provide them with tools and resources.
As a patient, it is time to recognize that you are not punished, you are not an inmate—rather, you just got a wakeup call and are a college student, and now is the time to learn how to stay awake for your own health.