More than half of Canadians say* better communication – health providers who listen and use plain language – would have the most positive impact on their health-care experience. They also want to feel respected and reassured.* That’s no surprise. So we’re flipping the script and recruiting the best teachers we can think of: patients. By listening to real-life stories, medical students develop compassion, humanity and empathy. That’s just one way we’re teaching our health-care teams not only great technical skills, but the right people skills as well.
*2021 National Opinion Poll by Leger Canada
Dr. Jory Simpson says he can teach medical students how to become doctors. But he can’t teach them what it’s like to be a patient about to undergo body-changing surgery or other life-saving treatment. Or what it’s like to sit in a waiting room, day after day, week after week, all the time thinking about what else is going on in their lives.
That’s why he enlisted his breast cancer patients to become patient-teachers, helping medical students understand the patient experience.
“Students often think of surgery as cut and done,” said Dr. Simpson, Division Head of General Surgery at St. Michael’s. “But in real life, we have long relationships with patients.” The program changes the way they perceive what it’s like to be a patient and emphasize the human side of surgery.
“This is about empowering patients and allowing them to tell their own stories about survivorship.”
As one of the patient-teacher volunteers said, “I hope to help them realize they need more than a scalpel. They need to get to know the patient, what else is going on in their lives. It’s easy to do a mastectomy; it’s not as easy to see a patient through to the other side.”
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