One Amongst Many
What if we were more individualistic?
Not too long ago I was having a drink with a friend of mine. We work at the same hospital in the emergency department. A great guy and phenomenal physician. I was making small talk when I asked a small but significant question. “How do you, as a physician, individualize your patients with the sheer volume we see. How are you able individualize each and every person’s treatment?”
“That’s a great question man, and hard to do, but I don’t. I feel like I am treating a community…..”
We work at a level one trauma center. We see an upward of 260 patients a day. This isn’t only our hospital. The whole community is seeing mass amounts of sick patients. However, our hospital is known as “the hospital to take people”. It’s considered the “one stop shop” type of hospital. And the community is well aware of the services we provide. Its an influx of patients at an alarming rate. Non-stop. All-day. Everyday. From gun shot victims to car accidents to falls. And no they all don’t survive.
We are a great facility. We get things done. And done right. Maybe not perfectly, but who maintains perfection all the time? No one. Things happen. People die. Weather it is in our control or not. This doesn’t negate the fact that we have an outstanding staff. Very smart individuals who know medicine and know medicine well.
….in my opinion, we have one huge problem, we are not individualistic enough. We treat on a “community” basis. A “protocol” testing philosophy. Instead of taking each patient as they present in that given moment and use subjective analysis (which we are trained to do), we tend to group their symptoms into categories and order tests based policies/procedures/protocols stemmed from “general” symptoms. In short, we generalize instead of individualize…
My point here isn’t to pick and prod at our healthcare systems and show its flaws. My aim is to shed some light on the idea of individualism. We have billions of cells in our body, each different. These billions of cells make up billions of proteins, each different (not billions of different amino acids, but billions of different protein molecules). These proteins are incorporated into millions of DNA molecules, each different. They all are so unique and all are different. In what sense should they all be treated the same?
Should we thus be taking more time with our patients?
I can’t wait for this shift to be OVER
We work set shifts. Weather it’s eight or ten or twelve hour shifts. They have a start and an end. They are finite. Some days we cannot wait for these shifts to be over with. Before we clock in even, our minds are fixated on the idea of being finished. But what about being finished, is satisfying? What makes us “feel good” about being done? But are we even really done, per say? What about the next day we work? Are we going to carry the idea of “getting it done” on to our next shift? And the next shift? And the next? Where does it end?
What if we just slowed down and took the time allotted and put everything we were doing at this given moment, our all?
I have found myself looking forward to being done with work plenty of times in my short work career. We have other preoccupations in life we look forward to and are rewarded by. But these thoughts and ideas are just preoccupying our moment in time and distracting us. Thus we are in a perpetual state of “being preoccupied”. It’s damn easy to be distracted in today’s society. We have numerous ways to be stimulated, we rarely just get a chance to exist. To just be.
Who needs philosophy?!
Stoic philosophy is derived from the Greeks over 2,000 years ago. Somehow their works have survived. And somehow their ideas are still influential today. De Brevitate Vitae, translated to On the Shortness of Life, written by Sceneca the Younger, conveys thoughts and ideas that, in my opinion, seem relevant in today’s society. To quote Seneca
“But if each of us could see the number of years before us as precisely as years that have passed, how alarmed would be those who saw only a few years left and how careful would they used them!”
By a meer change of perspective we can see that our perception of time lived can be changed just by one thought. If we don’t see life as years past and start to realize we only have “x” amount left, would time be of more value? If we conceptualize the idea of time being finite, would we then make better use of our time? Are we sometimes complacent with the idea that we can accomplish tasks at a later point in our lives? Maybe if we take this approach of having a limited amount of time left, then we can be more frugal with time itself. Use time to learn, read and study, and be compassionate to towards others, putting effort and time into the nonphysical aspects of life. And not indulging in social media post for short term stimulation. Stop living through the lenses of our phones, continuously taking pictures on vacation to post on social media so we get likes for stimulation. Stop living for the fruits of actions, our expectations, and act just to act. Stop being so drawn to short term dopamine releases and be drawn to the longevity of a well-balanced mind. And start being attracted to things that improve our states of mind. Maybe then society will see a positive trend in our species mental health.
“They don’t make it like they use to”.
Philosophy isn’t what is use to be, however, philosophy is always evolving and isn’t what is used to be because of the evolution of human cognition. But if we use the fundamentals of philosophy then maybe we can better ourselves. And by bettering ourselves, thus, better others around us to live in a cooperative society.
Take a walk in my shoes
Why is it that some terminally ill people have a different concept of time? Physically they have limited amount time, however, they show timeless boundaries.
Does a person who has to catch the bus and walk everywhere have a different perception of time than say a person who drives everywhere?
Does culture influence the perception of time?
Time is the only finite thing we have. And we do not know when it will be over. We have hopes to live a long life, but we don’t know when it will be our time to leave this planet. We struggle to enjoy what’s in front of us, we crave stimulation. We push days past us in hopes of a new day. Or new week for that matter. We push through obstacles with no sense of time of enjoying the process. We look forward to the day we can have a society status and then it comes and we feel lost. “That’s it?” we think to ourselves. We look forward to vacations and when they are over we say “back to reality”. We are always pushing for a better future while father time is sitting and watching. Watching and Waiting for us to get a clue. A clue that we don’t have a lot of his time and that we better start realizing that. It’s very hard to conceptualize things we cannot see or physically touch because they are not in our visual field, we have to imagine these concepts. In our brains, if we can’t visualize physical things, they don’t exist. They are just concepts with no physical barrier, boundless. And maybe we don’t “see” time because of the duration of time itself. We cannot directly see time go by. We can see two pictures of the same person, taken at two different points in their lives. One at age three and one at age 63. We can see the physical differences in the pictures, which is visually verified. We would most likely then formulate the concept of time, based upon the two images. Time thus is a concept.
Could time then be perceived differently from person to person? Could this perception of time dictate how we live our lives?
Maybe if we practice individualization we can eliminate the idea of “treating a community”. We can see things for what they are and not have a protocol for “generalized symptoms”. Maybe this will lead to fewer mistakes and better patient outcomes. And most importantly maybe we can learn from our inevitably changing world and gain knowledge. Knowledge to better ourselves. Knowledge to be used to better our patient care.
Hopefully we can better our lives for the benefit of others. It all starts at the individual level. You do have the time, you just don’t know how much, so be mindful of it.
Thanks for reading.