Dr John Smith: Working with the dying will transform you

More doctors and other health professionals should work with dying patients, suggests Dr John
More doctors and other health professionals should work with dying patients, suggests Dr John

I have often wondered what it would be like if every doctor, nurse and therapist spent some time working in a hospice.

Working alongside patients, and their families, who are dying is transforming.

By dying I do not mean “tomorrow” but I do mean living with the knowledge that life is coming to an end in the next few days, weeks or months.

They are where we have not yet been, they have feelings which we cannot understand yet strive to understand, they are confronted with the life they have had and the relationships that have gone with it, they are wondering what their life has meant to themselves and to others.

At the same time they may be contending with difficult symptoms which they need help with.

It is a difficult yet strangely wonderful time, a time of leave taking, of saying goodbye.

Who can fail to be changed by this? It is for this reason that I would like all who “doctor”, nurse and treat to experience this and to be humbled by it.

I would like them to be open enough to listen, to feel and to respond.

I would like them to realise that it costs nothing to spend a few more minutes listening to patients.

If they do they will prescribe less, even operate less and, in a selfish way, perhaps reduce their stress because the relationship will have altered.

I have written this because it has been suggested that there should be at least one nurse for every eight patients in our hospitals.

Of course there should. Nurses will have more time to listen and show that they are listening, more time to come alongside their patients even in busy wards.

This is not rocket science, it is plain common sense.

Sense that has, so often, gone missing with a drive to be cost-effective and do more in less time. What a disaster that has been for the NHS, what an opportunity there now is.

By the way, Cransley has two nurses for nine patients, no wonder it is the place it is.