procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Friday, March 11, 2011

patients and clients

i've been meaning to write about this for a while now.

when i went to university the first time round, one of the first things we were told is that we didn't have patients anymore, we had clients. and we all nodded, recognising we weren't splint-makers, but health-service providers. we had an important task to work out in concert with our clients which services best fitted their needs. no more were we caring for, looking after, or helping people. we were professionals.

in the olden days, prosthetist-orthotists like me, wouldn't have been like me. they would most likely have been war veterans, with at the very least one prosthesis. their patients would have been people who lost their legs a little later than them, and, chances are, if they were up to it, would've been trained up to help the next lot.

but today, we're university educated, with a nice piece of paper, and we are the clients' health service providers.

i think my question is, what does this change in nomenclature mean for a) the way we treat patients, and b) for their expectations of us?

the words patient, treat, care, look after - all imply that there is something wrong. that there is something that needs to be made right. it is not about wants but needs. this doesn't mean the needs will always be met, that we will work toward goals, but if someone has lost a leg, their need is to be able to walk again, even if a wheelchair may be the best outcome considering various factors.

but the words client, health-service provider, management, service, imply a contractual relationship, where one's services are engaged for a particular agreed-upon purpose. the sense of caring for someone who unable is gone.

likewise, the recent don't dis- my -ability campaign baffles me. i get what it's saying. but, if i may make a tandem point (this is a blog, after all), part of being in community is helping those who need help. we (should) help people with prams on and off buses, we (should) give up our seats for others. yes, you can crawl the kokoda track, but why should that ever make it condescending for someone to offer or to receive assistance from a fellow human being.

after all, the worth of a person is not in what they can or can't do, or how many functioning limbs they have. but our value is in our created-ness, our innate image-bearing. and indeed, it is often those with so little who contribute so much - triumphing over adversity to achieve the unachievable.

in my short time working in the health-care industry, i have served patients from all walks of life - homeless, teachers, public officials, artists - and compassion, care and serving those unable to serve themselves has been what has driven the same level of care for all.

the road to clients is a road that means the end of multi-disciplinary teams, the end of public health care, the end of sympathy.

Those who are well have no need of a doctor, but those who are sick. Mark 2.17

you might want to make your own extrapolations for what this means in a ministry context.

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