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The Importance of Taking a Team Approach When It Comes to Your Healthcare

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I fell asleep in tears last night.

Why? I’m glad you asked.

As I reflected upon my day I could not hold back the happy tears that flowed in thanksgiving for the people who have been brought into my life through unforeseen circumstances.

As a healthcare professional, I like to think of myself as a fairly capable and independent patient. Anyone who knows what my typical week looks like, knows that is a complete joke. I like to create a façade of control by silencing my own infusion pump, and strapping on my own blood pressure cuff. But it is a complete smokescreen. I am entirely reliant on numerous members of the healthcare system.

And for that, I am glad. For that, I grant many happy tears.

the author smiling and standing with two other people

There has been an unfortunate trend in healthcare towards a very transactional, consumeristic mindset. As a patient, it is easy to think of your care in terms of what you can get. After all, you are paying for it. Patient satisfaction surveys, and a la carte healthcare have created a culture of judgment. Rather than promoting a team effort with the patient and healthcare team wearing the same color, and running side by side in the fight, it often looks more like the patient is wearing a referee jersey and judging every movement the provider makes.

As a patient, and a healthcare professional, I do not blame either party for this trend. Due to the culture of our healthcare system, it is a difficult dynamic to suppress.

But as a reliant patient, I would encourage you to suppress it.

As a patient, you must be your greatest advocate. With care scattered between different providers and locations, you have to ensure all the members of your healthcare team are outfitted with all the necessary equipment and aware of the game plan. You also have to determine if they are the appropriate players, seeking the same end goal.

But instead of a referee jersey, I would encourage you to don the coach’s hat. Be the most aware. Know your team, and know your strategy. Get to know their strengths, and weaknesses. But like a good coach – encourage those strengths, and help develop the weaknesses.

Referees are concerned with finding flaws, and forcing unnatural perfection. In contrast, coaching is about achieving goals, enhancing strengths and maximizing potential.

In my experience on both sides of the healthcare system, I have found that everyone involved is human. We all make mistakes. But better yet – we all have something entirely unique to offer. I consider myself a far better human because of the people I have met in the most undesirable corners of the healthcare system. My former pediatric gastroenterologist has taught me how to be the best student, always looking for new connections and areas of study. My infusion nurse has taught me how to be the bomb grandparent, and a more avid seeker of adventure. And my beloved MA has taught me how to make cannoli shells, and better face every situation with a smile.

group of women sitting together in a restaurant and smiling

If I am only looking at the person across the exam room based upon what they can do for me, I am missing a tremendous opportunity to grow and be enriched by a person. 

After all – if we are only fighting for our health, we are fighting a losing battle. Science has yet to discover a body that never perishes.

So let’s join together with our team and fight for quality of life. Quality of life that is found in even enjoying the hard stuff. Quality of life that is found in seeking and maximizing the strengths of our teammates. Because the most challenging events are the very ones that produce and display the most awe-inspiring strength.

Originally published: April 20, 2018
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