slideshow widget

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Judging Patients

As the infamous anonymous RT notes in this post over at RT 101, once you work in a hospital for a while, or probably in any profession where you work with various sorts of people, you become a judge. You become a person who uses stereotypes. You "assume" you know the person when you really don't.

I'm not talking about racism or prejudism or sexism or anything like that. In my 15 years in the medical field I have never once seen any form of those things. I have never seen any person treated based on the color of their skin, sex, race or creed.

However, ironically, in the medical field we always have to note those things. It is often essential in properly diagnosing and treating. For example, sickle cell anemia is a disease that primarily effects African Americans, while cystic fibrosis often effects white Europeans.

Yet, despite the infamous Biblical quote that says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Matthew 7:1), we often judge. The moment you walk into the hospital we assume the best, or the worst, and usually it's the worse.

While I regret it, even I get caught up in stereotypes, as you can see in this and this post. In fact, a while back we had a patient come into the emergency room nonresponsive, and our initial response was that this was another overdose by some junkie. In fact, we were informed by the EMTs that the patient was found unconscious lying in the grass alongside the road.

And we actually were about to intubate the patient based on this stereotype, when the wife came in and informed us this was a teacher and a good one. He was a non-drinker, and never did drugs in his life. And, as a matter of fact, he was a bad asthmatic.

Yet, while we were thinking drug abuser, he was actually having a bad asthma attack. We gave him a few breathing treatments and he regained consciousness. As it turned out he was going for his daily walk when the attack suddenly hit.

He actually walked out of the hospital that night. So you see that because so many people abuse themselves and abuse the emergency room, the end result is medical professionals who stereotype. Not good, but what can you ?

Well, we know the answer to that: reserve judgement.

No comments: