At APhA Annual Meeting I had the pleasure of meeting the accomplished Dr. Daniel Furtado – pharmacist, educator, retired Army veteran, former mayor of Campbell, CA…the list goes on! In an e-mail exchange I did not expect to receive a profound reflection on his many years of practice as a pharmacist. He gave me permission to share his response.
Please enjoy the wise words of Dr. Furtado….
I’ve given some thought to your request. I worked at the Palo Alto VA Hospital for about 7+ years; this was during the Vietnam War. The VA had a spinal cord injury unit; most patients were veterans of the Vietnam War. Then, later, I worked for a private hospital, O’Connor Hospital at Campbell in a 4-week inpatient program for patients with chronic pain; later, we also established an alcohol detox & rehab program, also a 4-week inpatient program. My experience, therefore, was with patients with long-term health issues. I found it was essential that I do a lot of listening. Oftentimes, chronic patients deal with health professionals who seem in a hurry, and only want a few facts before they start talking, assessing, prescribing treatment. Patients sometimes feel that their problems are not being taken seriously or real. Answering questions, offering advice, or, only when necessary being more firm in your prescription for action, is important. For many chronic problems, it’s the patient who must determine what the best approach is for themselves after some suggestions and options. As health professionals, we often think we have all the answers and know what to do, and, therefore we believe, we need to give a firm message to quickly resolve matters. It doesn’t work with chronic health issues. And, it’s important for us to not be too judgmental when a patient fails (such as alcohol abstinence and treatment failures); continue to work with patients, but don’t be an enabler to always respond with the “right” answer, or do the work which the patient needs to do. But, I realize it’s easy for me to offer advice, while I realize you have experienced a serious health issue, which you have addressed with perseverance and motivation.
Key Take-Aways for Providers
- Take time to listen to your patients.
- Provide options and suggestions rather than commands.
- Respect the patient’s choice.
- Refrain from being overly judgemental – try again.
- Empower patients rather than leading them in certain directions or doing things for them.
Thank you Dr. Furtado for your reflection. From my dual point of views, I found it very comforting as a patient and affirming as a provider about the direction our patient care needs to go.
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