Rebuilding a Curriculum of Caring for Healthcare
Embedding a foundational "toolkit" of compassion in our present and future physicians will be essential for patient-physician communication and physician satisfaction. This essay was initially written as a project paper
for the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative in which I was a 2013 Fellow.
"May I see in all who suffer only the fellow human being"
Healthcare is broken and doctors are burning out.
That is the current mantra. Healthcare has gotten too expensive and impersonal, and there is inconsistent access to that care. Doctors are increasingly stressed and do not seem as engaged. Patients complain that their doctors are too busy and no longer listen. They ask, “Who will take care of me as a person and not just as a bunch of x-rays and lab test results?” I trust my doctor, but why does she seem so distracted and disengaged.” With all the technological advances of the last several decades, with genomics and PET scans, MRIs and super-subspecialists for every conceivable body part, what in the world is happening to the very doctors who care for us? We have all this “High Tech,” but, where is the “High Touch?” Is being a physician no longer a calling? Has it become just another job? Have patients become commodities? Why has doctoring gone astray?
It is crucial for the health care profession – now a health care system, comprised of collaborative teams of physicians, nurses, PAs, social workers, ethicists, and even economists – to remain focused, engaged, vibrant, and committed to caring. We cannot have it any other way. We cannot be a healthy society, with healthy citizens contributing to the success and happiness of that society, without an engaged health care team. We need to (re)-train physicians for a lifetime of caring, so that they continually demonstrate empathy in their work, and so that they themselves remain energized and happy in their careers, as this will improve patient outcomes over time.
: Frameworks in Medical Humanities
As Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter has written, change is often a result of “Big Vision and Small Steps.” The Big Vision is creating and curating The Course in Compassion: A Curriculum of Caring (The Course). The small, essential and crucial steps are to pilot a series of medical humanities courses in all six modules, and, utilizing longitudinal data analysis, create metrics to measure patient outcomes and satisfaction over time, and physician satisfaction through their careers.