The eternal goal for those in the medical profession is to accomplish treating, curing, and healing our patients. This has become particularly challenging with so many encounters now limited by Zoom, time constraints, masks, compartmentalization due to specialization, and shared anxiety due to the pandemic. But the challenge is one we must meet. The integrity of our profession depends on it.
I would make the case that listening is the universal medicament—an alchemy that transcends all else in clinical medicine. It is not limited by technical skill but instead is enhanced by the health professional’s willingness to be a witness to the patient’s story.
Here’s but one example: In the 1970s, when I was practicing as a primary-care physician, if one of my patients suffered a heart attack I would ask them, “Why did you choose that day to have your heart attack?”
I was surprised by the insights my patients offered. Virtually all of them who’d suffered a heart attack were trapped in life situations in which they had lost control. For them to be truly healed, they needed help uncovering the biopsychosocial, spiritual, and ecological interrelationships in their illness. This required a profound level of listening that went …
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