Patient Engagement

Working on the Edges

What are the areas in healthcare that seem to be ‘on the edge’? Not quite important enough for full attention, but recognized as being ‘of interest’, although not expected to generate dramatic revelations or miracle cures? It seems some of these areas start on the edges, then move more centrally, like bubbles of interest that may burst and disappear, coalesce into recognized fields of study and research or drift back out to the edges once again.  It seems many of my own areas of interest lie at these edges, or certainly started there.

For example, my work in a small rural community showed me the power of community networks and how people, through these connections, could make enormous impacts on the health and wellness of their communities.  Why did we not work more at this level than in the clinic? Community health initiatives can make such positive impacts, but they never seem to receive the same funding and recognition as those of the traditional medical establishments. Has the time come for this bubble to really become central in health care policy and interventions?

The work with frail elderly, those suffering with chronic illness and those who are dying demonstrates the complexity of this type of care, the importance of a holistic care model, and the need for compassionate, healing relationships.  How is this bubble progressing on its journey? Can it take its place with equal status to those searching for eternal youth, beauty and miracle cures?

Teamwork, along with its challenges, limitations and strengths, provides an example of a bubble that has travelled from an edge to the centre, and then back out to the edge at least once.  Since I first encountered it on the edge in the late 1990’s it has travelled to the centre, and strong evidence has emerged to support its importance in health care. The words ‘collaboration’ and ‘teamwork’ are now part of medical language. Yet energy to act on the recommended changes and to create new models seems to be waning or is unable to surmount the identified challenges.  Where will this bubble go next?

Exploring ways to understand and maintain compassionate healthcare, as well as personal wellness, in healthcare professionals is a more recent bubble, still pretty much on the edge, although attention seems to be turning as stresses in health care increase.  The role of the arts and humanities in patient care, teamwork and the education of health care professionals may be very important.  The arts and humanities illustrate the complexity of the human condition, ask difficult and challenging questions of society, point out injustices, and dare us to look at, and within, ourselves through different lenses. Can they help us maintain compassion? Can they help improve our healthcare system? Do they have answers to which we have not yet listened?

What do you think?

About the author

Dr. Pippa Hall
  • AffiliationUniversity of Ottawa

Dr. Hall is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa and a retired Palliative Care Doctor.

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