Earlier this week I had a patient come into the office and ask me, do you ever get sick of treating back pain and listening to the same complaints all day long. I have thought about this in my head before but I have never had to actually articulate an answer for someone on the fly.
So I answered in the moment but I have been thinking about this for the past couple of days, most people have heard of an elevator speech but I felt like this kind of put me on the spot to indicate my practice and purpose in a 20 second segment.
If you were to work in an office and tell yourself that you treat back pain and headaches all day, I think you would drive yourself crazy and your career as a health care professional would not be very long as your days would begin to get very mundane and boring.
I have to walk in everyday and tell myself that I treat people. Everyone is unique with an injury or pain that is unique to them. You may have worked in the yard too long, sat in a desk chair all day or God forbid… slept funny. Everyone has a different story as to why they in the office, I want to know that story. Oh, I’m going to try and help you with your condition and pain but I want to get to know my patients as human beings.
I ask about patient’s weekends, hobbies, kids, grandkids and parents. I follow obituaries to see if anyone I know or patient’s relations are written about. This is just who I am as a person, if I ask about something that offends you (trust me there are a lot of topics these days), I’m going to move from that topic quick. I can find common ground with just about anyone but the one thing I refuse to do is to categorize people based on the condition that they present in the office with.
I come from a family of story tellers, a few of my uncles are the best story tellers I know. I grew up laughing with family and self deprivation stories and jokes. Stories and jokes are appreciated in the office, it can paint a good picture of who you are as a person. There is also a therapeutic effect to just talking and venting about life and your pain. I never really even thought about this through school, but Dr. Wakefield told me that there is a therapeutic effect to conversation. We treat people and pain but they will feel better leaving the office if they can have a simple 10-15 minute conversation with someone that is going to just listen and try to help them through the situation that they are in.
So when you come into the office, yes I am going to talk to you about your pain and the reason why you are in the office, but I will quickly divert to you as a person as soon as there is a clear indication as to what exactly is going on with you physically. I will divert to weekend plans, shopping lists and kids activities. Are you traveling somewhere, road construction your just drove through and what is on sale at Tractor Supply. I truly want to know this about you.
Not only is it therapeutic for you as a patient but it will help me form an idea of who you are as a person. I’m not from central Nebraska originally, but I have learned more about the agricultural communities in the past 9 years than I have ever wanted to know and you know how that manages to happen. Just let the farmer vent, it’s good for them and I learn something.
Treat the person, listen to the person and the pain will take care of itself with some conversation and simple treatment.