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Healing Hands...I am a physician, a shubhankar.

By now, you are wondering what in the world I am talking about (to put it politely). I just read an amazing article by Ronald W. Pies, MD entitled "Why Doctors Don’t Have Clients." In the article, he refutes the ongoing move away from use of the words "patients" and "physicians" towards the use of "clients" and "providers."  He quotes another physician who quipped "The only people who have clients are hookers and lawyers!"

He beautifully captures my own resistance to the movement by quoting Dr. Barry L. Farkas who responded to a Times article with the following :

. . . when you repeatedly use the term “provider” to describe those professionals in the caring arts—and yes, on our best days, the healing arts—it becomes an eloquently sad commentary on the state of medical care . . . the term “provider” for clinical caregivers, like the term “client” for patients, depersonalizes and commodifies that which is neither and [is] so very much more.

The article ends with a suggestion for compromise -- a set of Sanskrit terms that better captures our goal for the physician-patient relationship.  Shubharthi, literally "seeker of well-being” and “shubhankar”—literally, “a person who is dedicated to others’ welfare.”

I can't thank Dr. Pies enough for this commentary.  I have long struggled to use the term "client" as I never felt it captured the essence of the relationships I strive to develop with my patients.  On the other hand, my persistence is using the term "patient" seemed to separate me from my non-physician colleagues in a way that was never my goal.   This article, clarifies and renews my commitment to the term patient, as well as adds a dimension that was definitely missing.

So to all of my shubharthi, it is my absolute privilege to be your shubhankar on this journey to your well-being.

Click here to read the full article which can be found on the Psychiatric Times website.

 

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