It wasn’t until the 1980s that the medical field really started talking about the need to emotionally support patients, especially those with chronic illnesses. This is partly due to the fact that before then, most patients with chronic illnesses weren’t making it to adulthood. Thankfully, dramatic progress has been made since that time, and many patients are living both long and full lives.
However, most of our progress has been for medical care, not emotional care. Not only that, but when it comes to emotional support, most of the gains have been made outside of the doctors office. There are support groups, summer camps, online communities, and more, all aimed at supporting the mental and emotional health of patients.
The problem is, that’s not the only place patients need to feel supported.
Even if someone is receiving medical care from the most world-renowned specialist in their field, if they do not feel that doctor has their best needs at heart (in every sense of the world), they will feel apprehensive about their care. It can be as simple as making eye contact. That basic human connection can help a patient be seen as a person, not just a diagnosis that needs a prescription.
This issue can be particularly prevalent among children. Kids with chronic illnesses know less about health in general than adults, and being faced with the knowledge that they have a rare condition can be scary.
Ultimately, engagement by physicians can be just as important (if not more so) than any summer camp or community support.
There’s no denying living with a chronic illness can be a battle. Feeling like a person in front of your doctor shouldn’t be part of that battle.