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A Good, Great Patient !

The characteristics of a good patient include obedience, patience, politeness, listening, enthusiasm for treatment, intelligence, physical cleanliness, honesty and lifestyle adaptation (taking medication correctly and reporting to clinic when told). Time magazine described “a good patient” as someone who listens, follows directions, asks relevant questions, shows trust in his doctor and “massages” the doctor’s ego. Good patients are calm and friendly. Good patients seek to nurture positive relationship with the hospital staff and try to avoid irritation to staff.

There is a story which illustrates the mindset of a patient. Once a man was told by his physician that he has one month to live because he has advanced cancer. This man went to the temple and prayed. He heard some voice “don’t worry my child. Everything will be ok.” Man went home peacefully after being assured by GOD that nothing is going to happen. In the meantime he met the surgeon, medical oncologist, nutritionist and alternative therapist who told him that they can treat him and he will be ok. He said “GOD has promised me cure and normal life. I am not ready for any anticancer treatment. “After one month man died and reached heavens. He said’ oh GOD! You promised me cure and here I am after 1 month, in front of you.” GOD smiled and replied” My child I sent whole of my magic tool box (surgeon, oncologist, alternative therapist and nutritionist) to you but you refused each and every one”. Crux of the story is you should have faith in the system, faith in your doctor, faith in the tool box and faith in yourself.

There are few qualities that make a patient great.

  • Trust – Patient should have faith in healing process. Cancer recovery is not linear but riddled with ups and downs. Some patients become excited at the onset of new treatment. But there might be a plateau and a dip in vitality. And all that hope and enthusiasm for recovery begins to wane. Dips do happen, infact they are expected as part of road to recovery. What makes a patient great is his ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Trust means the ability to see this time – as a passing discomfort in an otherwise long cancer journey. When you adopt this mindset, the setback becomes a set-up for greater inner strength and ultimate healing potential. The great patient sees each dip as an opportunity to strengthen his faith and keep moving no matter what the result.
  • Self-Healing – in the past, the doctor was seen as provider of health. You got sick, you went to the doctor and got medicines. It was thought that doctor gave you your health. But this is not the way. We manage sick patients by restoring their ability to self-heal. When you clean the wound and dress the wound, it sets the stage for self healing. It may also need some lifestyle changes. Just as a farmer does not make his crops grow. What he does is fertilize the soil, plant the seeds and nurture them with water and fertilizers to create the best conditions that support the growth of life. While the oncologist provides specialized treatments (like water and nutrients to plants) that facilitates healing response. Patient must optimize his internal and external environment through proper diet, rest and positive mindset.
  • Expectations – it is clear that health and healing come not from the physician but from nature. And nature sets its own pace. While we hope and do everything possible to set the stage for early recovery, we must respect the healing process. Our priority should be to provide the best possible soil (care) so that nature can do a good job. One of my colleagues remarked that every patient is good and great till the time he gets expected outcome. Patients have a strong expectation of what they need in their mind. Some treatments may do wonders for one particular patient but may not do so well for other patient. Each patient is highly unique.Today the innovative medicine enables treatment to be so effective that there is a high level of personalization and expectation. Tremendous amount of time, effort and experience goes in evaluation of each patient to develop a program of personalized medicine. So in addition to trust, faith and commitment to the process – a great patient should be flexible in his expectation while trusting medical team’s ability to provide the individualized care.
  • Customer Mind – in the present era of consumerism every patient feels, he is a customer. And the first role of customer service is “customer is always right.” We live in the age of information and patients research google their own symptoms and try to find treatment options. Google has provided a unique medical marketplace. These models may work for day to day medical problems and basic lifestyle enhancements. But it breaks down when applied to complex chronic conditions like cancer. We as medical professionals can assure our patient that centuries of research and wisdom combined with decades of clinical experience is being applied to them (patients). A great patient is curious and inquisitive and understands that his treatment is backed by knowledge and clinical experience. He should not assume the role of a customer and consumer by picking and choosing which product he would like to have. Every product (cancer treatment) has a specific function. Learning, googling is wonderful but adopt the right mindset; the beginner’s mind.
  • Beyond Medicine: Daily practices such as gratitude, prayer and meditation have proven to strengthen the immune system and hasten cell recovery. These actions impact patient’s physiology and psychology. The body is an extension of mind. Healing and recovery are not just physical processes but also spiritual ones.

When your patient is equipped with above qualities he can be a great and an outstanding patient!

Dr. A.K. Dewan
Director – Surgical Oncology

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Rajeev Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Center or RGCIRC is the largest tertiary healthcare centre in Asia. Since our inception in 1996 in New Delhi, India, we have helped patients from across the sub-continent, SAARC countries and other places for diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancers. We bring cutting-edge technology while offering super specialised care in Medical. Surgical and Robotic oncology. Our alliances with internationally renowned institutes have helped us become pioneers in new approaches to treating cancer.

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