Professionalism without Humanism: Pretending to Care
In so many of my blog threads there are responses by my visitors that show that they find that their physicians seem competent but are missing something in their relationship to their patients or seem to have other agendas in their minds by what they say or how they behave. Appearing professional ("acting like a doctor") is one thing but being humanistic ("feeling like a doctor should with concern and caring for the patient as a person")is totally another thing. Medical schools, training students to become doctors, are currently quite aware of the importance of instilling humanism into their students while they describe the duties of a professional. Still, students and others may not understand the relationship between professionalism and humanism. The November 2007 issue of Academic Medicine devotes the issue to humanism and the article by Jordan J. Cohen MD "Linking Professionalsm to Humanism: Why it Matters" helps the reader understand that one is not the other but a doctor just can't be truely professional without being humanistic.
There are many factors which lead doctors to fail to maintain this critical link such as personality development from youth, inadequate education in humanism in medical school or degrading what was learned by poor role models in later training years (the so-called hidden curriculum). In addition, there are the pressures of medical practice, lack of time with patients, need to see more patients to reach some financial goal or standards required by HMOs and the more impersonal technical means now available for diagnosis and treatment.
Hopefully, with more attention being paid at least by those in medical education to the need for doctors to be humanistic as well as professional perhaps the young doctor will be able to go beyond the pressures of medical practice and become the doctor that patients love and not the ones that patients hate. ..Maurice.