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Whole Person

In teaching–especially in English as a Second Language–we like to talk about the “whole learner,” the idea that students must be viewed as people with diverse needs, some of which seem to have very little to do with academics. The theory is that by acknowledging the student as a whole person and letting the factors that make him or her unique inform our instruction, we can help the student learn more effectively.

I’m mentioning this concept because I think it is very applicable to patient care. Patients need their healthcare providers to understand the needs they have that cannot be fulfilled by writing a prescription or performing a procedure. For example, I believe that the vast majority of patients withold information from their doctors–important information that may impact their diagnosis and treatment–because there is often a communication break-down between doctors and patients. Sometimes, this happens because patients are not self-aware or articulate enough to explain the problems they are having. Other times, they are too embarrassed. In just about every doctor’s appointment I’ve ever had, I’ve felt rushed by the doctor. Only by keeping a list of my concerns and checking it off was I able to communicate effectively with my doctors.

So, you see, the burden too often falls on the patient to make the doctor see him or her as a whole person–a person with goals, questions, fears, and inhibitions. Of course, from the doctor’s point of view, I’m sure it is no easy task to figure out all of a patient’s goals, questions, fears, and inhibitions in the space of a 45 minute consultation. I think it would help, though, if doctors made a concentrated effort to act a little more human and a little less like robots (especially the surgeons–wow).

This section is dedicated to articles and resources that address patient care and concerns from a “whole person” perspective. That is, besides antibiotics, what practices, people, places, and products can help heal us?


1. gati_presumida - 05/04/2012

This morning I wrote a post about this “whole person” thing that I will publish soon. Just wanted to add that it’s not only our specialists who need to see us as a whole person but also the people who are there to evaluate us. Those who decide whether we are able to work or if we need any kind of extra help.
I have written about what I have been denied by these people that, with just one look at me, assumed I am fine enough to work… Just because I don’t really look sick.
We need people to see as a a whole. We need doctors to make the right questions to us.
Love that you can use your experience so that others can learn. I am in my healing process yet, but hopefully one day I’ll help others too 🙂 xoxoxoxo

thetickthatbitme - 05/20/2012

You are so right! I think it is extremely important for everyone to realize that not all illnesses are visible!

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