The fundamental role of gratitude in medical profession by Dr Iraniha
It was Saturday November 16, 2013. I was driving my son who was extremely sick to the emergency room. He was ill for almost a week with high fever of unclear source. Regular treatment did not work and he was getting sicker and weaker every day. I was extremely furious and had unbelievable horrific thoughts about his illness. The possibility of the worse imaginable problems occurred to me and made me feel extremely desperate, vulnerable, lonely and scared. In the midst of all, he opened his extremely tired but beautiful and innocent eyes and asked me with a very weak voice “Dad, do I have cancer? Am I going to die?” I don’t know how I kept my composure at that moment and did not burst into tears. After all I needed to be strong for him and show him that I had his back and I was going to take care of him. So with all the power that had left in me, I hold my poise and put my sweaty and cold hand on his feverish burning forehead and told him that he would be ok. In that moment my personal goals and future, my fortune and wealth, my health and status in life did not even matter to me. I`d rather lose everything and had my son`s health back. That day in the hospital, as the parent of a sick child, I experienced so many new and complex emotions. I was standing on the other side of the equation, not as the giver but as the recipient of the medical care. That day I realized how powerful my profession is in changing lives and how incredibly crucial is the way we care our patients. The process of his treatment took more than fourteen months and after many procedures by multiple surgeons in different hospitals, finally he fully recovered. My family and I went through a long process of extreme pain, suffering, disappointment, desperation, and so many dark days before we were able to recover. In that journey I was able to experience firsthand the powerful effect of health care system and the health professionals on patients and their family. This experience consists of so many mixed stories of compassionate and caring health professionals as well as indifferent and unkind system and individuals. But now that it has been more than a year from his recovery what has left in my heart and memory is the incredible stories of individuals who helped me and my family on those harsh days and I am so grateful to every one of them and their devine healing hands and souls.
Each of us as the health care professional is responsible to understand the power of our profession in changing people`s lives and not take that for granted. We need to be extremely grateful to have the opportunity to be part of this angelic profession which allows us to profoundly influence others.
But what is the gratitude and why do we need to promote the culture of gratitude at our work place?
Our brain has been designed to recognize the threats and see the negative events or things around us. This is the default mode that has been hardwired in our brain for survival. This ability narrows our attention to focus on the problems and heighten our senses in order to solve those issues. But this crucial ability, especially now a days has forced us to see more negativity which has led to our daily nagging and complaining about the negative events at our home or at work place. We have a propensity to ignore the positivity around us and even if something good happens we have the tendency to look for the dark side of the event or soon get used to it. Positive events and things around us lose their importance rapidly and fall into the background of our lives, less noticeable. This habituation to positive circumstances or hedonic treadmill has made us an unsatisfied species with the attitude of entitlement and prevent us to recognize and appreciate positive treasures around us. So gratitude is a desire to look for good things in our lives and savor them. It is a practice to recognize the joy and experience that. It has the potential to enhance our well-being and contentment. In other words, gratitude is a skill set for accomplishing our personal growth and fulfillment. It broaden our perspective to see the world more clearly and positively and delays our adaptation to our fortune. Gratitude makes us more resilient towards the stressful events, strengthens our social ties and inspires us to serve others. These physical, psychological and social benefits of gratitude have been demonstrated and supported by scientific research over last three decades.
So many techniques have been recommended to promote and enhance gratitude in life or at work place. However, in my opinion, some are more applicable and powerful in our health care system. These practices are daily reminder of the values of our profession, thinking and remembering the positive events and interactions at work, replacing the negative events with positive ones in our mind, discovering and accentuating the positive sides of events, acknowledging the kind and compassionate acts of the health professionals and celebrating the humanity at our work place, and at the end, being grateful for the opportunity to serve others. Of course, it is not easy to be grateful at all times in our health care system and there are so many roadblocks to practice gratitude. But gratitude is a choice and it requires our intention, attention and training as well as organizational support and reminder.
In the health care system promoting the culture of gratitude is crucial. The culture which encourage the health care professionals to recognize and savor the value of their profession and their vital role in patients` lives and to be grateful not only to their profession but also to their patients for this remarkable and unique opportunity that enables them to grow as a good human being. Gratitude allows us to see our daily work differently, not as a job but as an altruistic daily activity which offers us more flourishing and fulfillment in our lives.