We’re New at This

by Russ Reina on March 22, 2012

I woke up one recent morning and realized that I have lived through more than one-quarter of the American Experience!

It’s simple, terrifying Math. In 1776 the Nation was born. That was 235 years ago. In 1951, I was born. That was 60 years ago. Yep, I’ve been around for about 26% of the American Experience!

As I review my own life, and figure out where to from here, I realize I can’t help but to take a look at where the time of my life has been spent historically. I suppose I had the typically American experience of getting older, getting curious about other cultures, and then finding that there was a lotta stuff going on over and back there that I was absolutely oblivious to! Why? Because I was so wrapped up in the NOW as defined by today’s America. Oddly enough, in this moment, it’s kind of easy to pinpoint what occurred with me but it has taken me a while to see how it worked.

My first thought when I had my realization was, Lordy, this country hasn’t been around for but a heartbeat! I’m not quite sure whether that was my way of diverting thoughts of my own mortality, but regardless, it comforted me. And that is a key perspective that keeps coming up for me in many areas. NOTHING of what we accept as reality has been around very long and we best not lose sight of that fact.

That includes what we call “Modern Medicine”, you know. Here are some things that Wikipedia has to say about it:

Modern medicine
Medicine was revolutionized in the 19th century and beyond by advances in chemistry and laboratory techniques and equipment, old ideas of infectious disease epidemiology were replaced with bacteriology and virology.
Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) in 1847 dramatically reduced the death rate of new mothers from child bed fever by the simple expedient of requiring physicians to clean their hands before attending to women in childbirth. His discovery pre-dated the germ theory of disease. However, his discoveries were not appreciated by his contemporaries and came into general use only with discoveries of British surgeon Joseph Lister, who in 1865 proved the principles of antisepsis in the treatment of wounds; However, medical conservatism on new breakthroughs in pre-existing science prevented them from being generally well received during the 19th century.

So, really folks, what are we talking, less than 150 years? It took a good fifty years for the concepts we accept as standard operating procedure to get traction, so functionally, we’re looking at just since the 20th Century. And the point that we need to consider in medicine today is that it takes a long time to get people to start using techniques and therapies that make a difference.

Is it fair to say that Western Medicine as a whole is in its infancy? Is it fair to say we haven’t even begun to know what we don’t know? Let’s put it this way; all the medicine we used today is based on the failure of most every medicine that came before it.

In this very minute, using emergency medicine as a metaphor, there are people out there working on new approaches to emergency intervention based on the knowledge that what we’re using right now is outdated and ineffectual. They are going to have to spend YEARS convincing everyone else they are on the right track before any of it gets into an ambulance. The process will involve a coming together of such things as the legal system, politics, publicity and marketing, for these things are the grease that turns the wheels in our society.

It will be DECADES before we find things that are ALREADY developed being used in the streets. And, in our American way of fulfillment of Darwinism, the end result will be survival of the fittest, but that means determining factors mentioned above will set the pace. First, whatever efficacious approach that has been devised must be run through a huge gauntlet of resistance; usually by the very experts who will eventually embrace the new approach. First comes innovation; then comes the sale.

I keep harping on this. I know I’m a pain! But for me, that perspective has really simplified what I’m doing here. I’m emphasizing that medicine is not about the system or the interventions used, it’s all about the people served and the people who serve them and how they are treated as human beings! Everything else is interchangeable. At all times we must remember that both our therapies AND our therapists are subject to failure!

All I’m asking is that you keep this in mind when you choose to hook up your patients to the newest and the greatest gadgets and not listen to them. It is so very easy to place your priorities on following your protocols and ABC’s and not really see that there’s a human being in front of you because your focus is on the “Problem”.

And how much more does that apply to how you deal with each other? How much attention do you pay to each other as human beings doing stressfull and important work? Really, since no one else seems to recognize how challenging the work is, what’s wrong with you acknowledging that to and for each other?

You see, historically we have advanced in our medical techniques, therapies, medicaments, procedures and on and on. We have increased our knowledge exponentially in how the body works. Good Lord, we’ve certainly done enough experimentation, haven’t we?! But as that body of knowledge has gotten expanded, we’ve pretty much put zero energy into learning how to mobilize the patient’s own defenses through such things as word and touch.

Call me crazy, but I predict fifty years from now medics in all modalities will be using speech and sound patterns to help patient smobilize their own immune or rejuvenative systems to stabilize THEMSELVES for transport! And call me even crazier because I know such concepts are being worked with right now, by medics who won’t dare talk about it until they are my age!

And that leads me into my conclusion. With all these advances in medical innovation we’ve done next to nothing to learn how to really work with each other or others so that the stress of DELIVERING all this new stuff is more evenly distributed. Right now, we’re just handed stuff and told to use it. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a big part of being a human being is asking “Why?” That, indeed, is what precedes innovation.

But questions of “Why” also live in such areas as morals, philosophy, spirituality and emotion. This is what we deny. Essentially, we throw our medics into patient care with overloaded toolboxes but little support in carrying them. The culture EXPECTS that the medic can figure it out on his or her own. But there’s no attention being paid to what that looks like. Unfortunately, many medics are penalized in one way or another (burnout) for even looking.

We can do better.

read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_medicine

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