Side Characters of the Health-Care System

Spencer,  Natasha. “Healthcare.” Unsplash, 8 May 2019.

A canvas is loved for its colours, the busy patterns and intricacies of a tragedy – a folklore building its character. A canvas is loved for the bolds, the artist’s touch, and the risque of his message. A canvas is loved for much but itself. The cotton, the linen touch go unnoticed in the midst of all the distractions.

But they exist nonetheless. It’s the strong ties of these threads that have been holding the scene together for decades, centuries.

Much like a canvas, the healthcare system often forgets to highlight its threads, the ones that support the bustling scenes at every facility. It’s the nurses and technicians, the receptionists and the cleaning staff that fade into the background.

What remains visible and celebrated are the physicians: the surgeons, the specialists, the doctors. Underlying this culture is the phenomenon of the “God Complex”, first explicitly cited in the Dr. Who television series (more specifically, season six and episode eleven), which words the idea of the omniscient and almost holy role the physician plays in the healthcare system. Here, the physician is certain of their abilities and the patient, certain of their powers.

Where does this notion of divinity stem? Could it be the historical roots of medicine, the pairing of medicine with spirituality, that influences this relationship? Or is it the patient’s desperation, their need to believe that the physician holds the key to life in their hands? The New York Times article, “Decoding the God Complex”, questions the all-knowing status of physicians, citing the multitude of contradictory ‘expert’ opinions as evidence for this inadequate comparison (Dowd, 2011). It ponders over the subjectivity of categorizing treatments and physicians as the best or most informed, raising the concern that this subjectivity is dependent on a single point of reference .

The article then tumbles into a tangent on the patient and the physician, their contribution and their losses to and from this so called God Complex. The patient fails to question and in turn is subject to the narrow, one sided belief of the physician; the physician fails to accept criticism and perspective and in turn prescribes their narrow, one sided belief to the patient.

Perhaps we need to change how we prescribe the medical narrative to the public. Recognizing and highlighting other components of the healthcare system may be the most important factor to change. But where do these other components of the system currently fit? Have we assigned them a place or just put them aside in the corners and crevices?

The biggest change that needs to occur is in our mindset and understanding of the healthcare system. How do we prescribe the scene in society? Do we highlight the roles that exist in the system other than the patient-physician interaction? Do we see value in these other interactions?

A surge in literature citing the benefits of a multidisciplinary healthcare system has occurred in the past few years. Research literature highlights the importance of not only accessing, but recognizing the multitude of components that contribute to the care of patients. A review published by AMA Journal of Ethics reports that teams that promote diversity and equality amongst themselves see fewer errors in their work and provide a more effective approach to patient care (Mayo, 2016). This does not come as much of a surprise; after all, the patient is a complex character and it’s care should reflect that.

These findings, however, have still not been translated to the public. The nurses, physical therapists, technicians, and social workers are still overshadowed and underrepresented in the healthcare platform. How can we ensure that a constant undermining of these professions is not occurring? Who do we turn to facilitate these discussions?

Perhaps the answers lie within the problem itself.

It’s up to the physicians and the patients to recognize and in turn highlight the broad spectrum of the healthcare system. It’s up to the physicians and the patients to reject the linearity with which patient care is perceived. It’s up to the physicians and patients to paint the canvas in such a way that the beauty of its threads does not go unnoticed

Citations: Dowd, Maureen. “Decoding the God Complex.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 Sept. 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/opinion/dowd-decoding-the-god-complex.html.

Mayo, Anna T., and Anita Williams Woolley. “Teamwork in Health Care: Maximizing Collective Intelligence via Inclusive Collaboration and Open Communication.” Journal of Ethics | American Medical Association, American Medical Association, 1 Sept. 2016, https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/teamwork-health-care-maximizing-collective-intelligence-inclusive-collaboration-and-open/2016-09

Spencer, Natasha. “Healthcare.” Unsplash, 8 May 2019 https://unsplash.com/photos /_hH0dC6A-FM