Sometimes it is easy to forget that our patients are more than just a medical record number, a case history, a hearing test, a diagnosis, a report awaiting to be finished. Sometimes it is easy for us to get into a routine, and go through the motions. I know I am guilty of doing so; after a while, everything blurs together, back to back patients, day after day. A patient can get lost in a miasma of diagnostic codes and statistics. Yet, the truth remains while they are one of many, to our patients we may simply be the one and only.
The beauty of becoming an audiologist, at least one that appeals to me strongly is the sheer amount of time we get to spend with our patients. By virtue of exposure, and by virtue of the nature of our work, we suddenly become more than just a doctor- we become their confidant, their nurturer, their advocate. We may joke amongst ourselves about things like keeping within our scope of practice and avoid becoming marriage counselors. Yet, frequently, and as my supervisor once commented, that first set of hearing aids a patient buys are not for themselves but rather for their relationships. More often than not, that soundbooth becomes almost a confessional, a sacred space in which patients confess to us their deepest fears, their feelings of inadequacy, their frustrations, their dreams and desires. When we sit with them, when we walk them through the test, when we discuss with them about hearing loss, about their tinnitus, about their balance problems we often end up talking about a whole lot more. If we listen carefully, pay close attention and read between the lines, we would realize our patients have actually divulge to us beyond a list of symptoms and red flags. We are invited to take a glimpse into their lives, their secrets. We are entrusted with so much more; never take that duty lightly.
It is such a blessing, albeit at times a blessing in a "hideous" disguise, when our patients feel comfortable enough to be true with us. It is a blessing when a patient can feel our unconditional positive regards for them to the point of letting slide their strong fronts. There are many tears of joy shed in an audiologist's office. You have seen it on youtube and heard tell from many people who have experienced the activation of a CI, the wonders of hearing sounds again because of hearing aids and ALDs. Similarly there are a lot of tears shed because of fear and the sensation of helplessness. We may not always be able to fix the problem they present to us, but one thing we can be darn sure of is we can be there for them. We are in the business of hearing and balance, and more importantly, we are in the vocation of listening and keeping centered; two things essential to helping people stay engaged in their world.
We may not be priests, psychologists and counselors, but that should not deter us from being the best ministers, healers, and nurturers that we can be. Stop, listen. Time is relative, and when you can lose track of time, and have a moment with a patient, you might just step back and realize you have made better use of that second, minute, hour than had you worried about getting by the minute and making it to the next.
What I am trying to say is this: be there for your patients. Let your love for your patients pervade all your actions. You may feel the need to help many, but focus on helping the one in front of you, and you will be surprised by just how much and many you have helped at the end of the day.