Doctors and Disabled Patients

God cares for the weak, vulnerable, broken, and the disabled. He loves them. He put them in your care.

But I’ll ask: In light of know God’s love for the disabled, do you care?

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Dear Doctors, 

Thank you. Without my doctors’ hard work, I would not be where I am today. Your hard work gave blessings in life that, for a long time, looked unrealistic and impossible.

I was in the room as my daughter was born.
I was able to see my family and friends again.
I am able to love my wife, as much as I can, unconditionally.
I am able to be disciple and worship with God’s people.
I will pursue a life of deep and intimate love for God and His people.

But, as I have been in and out of the hospital, I have reflected on what things I wish you would know about how to love your patients. More specifically, how you could love your disabled patients.

Doctors, here are three things that could help your relationship with your disabled patients.

PS. I am not at all bitter or upset with anyone. I am writing this for your current and future patients.

Stay a While

You have a lot to do in your day so this one might be the hardest to start right away. But, as someone who has a thorough history with doctors in and out of the hospital, I’ve always wanted the doctor to stay a while.

You might say: “But Jake, I have a lot of patients who need help and I can’t just hangout with everyone.”

And I would say: “I understand. I get it. But so do your patients when they interact with you. Your disabled patients just want to feel that their doctors care about them enough to stay a while. This helps them feel like you see them as people, not patients.”

Your disabled patients probably already feel like an obligation/a burden to their loved ones. Stay a while and see your patients as people, not simply as patients and certainly not obligations and burdens.

Listen, Actually Listen

Alright, now the first point is hard, but this point requires patience – and ultimately love.

The first and easily the most important aspect of caring about your patients is to listen, actually listen to them.

You might say: “But Jake, I don’t have time to spend hours listening to every patient. I have other things to do…”

And I would say: “There definitely are patients who will go on and on, but a majority of your patients just need someone to hear their questions and concerns. Your disabled patients – I for one – don’t feel like some doctors don’t care too much to just stop and listen to them. If you care about your patients, listen, actually listen to them.”

Most of your disabled patients feel unheard and ignored by the world around them – again, myself included. Listening to their questions and concerns not only makes your patients feel cared for but listening to your patients also creates trust in your medical decisions and overall satisfaction in your bedside manner.

Speak Carefully

So, after you stay a while and listen to your disabled patients, speak carefully. Speaking to your patients should not be limited to results, scans, procedures, and medication updates. When I’ve experienced this I felt that I was just on their checklist and I just assumed I was insignificant.

You might say: “But Jake, I’ve tried this. It doesn’t help or it ends up making it worse. You’re telling me to talk to my patients but, realistically, it’s a lose-lose scenario.”

And I would say: “Well, I can’t speak about those situations, so I’ll make it simple: Don’t try to fix how they feel and don’t say cliches. Empathize and only say things that ooze love to them. And you’ll only say the “right thing” if you actually listen to what they share.”

Your disabled patients don’t want you to “fix” how they feel; they want you to talk to them like any other patient. Your patients want you to address their questions and concerns, so carefully respond in a way that makes them feel important and that their concerns are valid.

FYI: A disabled patient spends significantly more time with doctors, so your disabled patients require a personal relationship that goes beyond your able-bodied patients. So, stay a while, listen closely, and speak carefully to your disabled patients… they need it and you do too.

Does this sound difficult? Does this sound time-consuming? Maybe this looks too hard.

It might seem impossible but it’s not.

God cares for the weak, vulnerable, broken, and the disabled. He loves them. He put them in your care.

But I’ll ask: In light of know God’s love for the disabled, do you care?

I pray you do.

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