Medical Ethics: Putting the heart into healthcare

As you prepare to become a medical professional, you will be learning a vast wealth of practical information. You will be learning the finer points of anatomy and chemistry, biology and science.

Yet as you digest this literal body of practical medical knowledge, you must never forget to develop your heart and conscience as well as your mind. When it comes to a job in the medical field, caring equals competence.

As a Doctor or a Nurse, a Lab Technician or a Medical Assistant, you will be dealing with far more than the bodies of patients. You will be facing their fears and insecurities regarding their health. You will be standing beside them at what could be the toughest times of their lives, giving them the support and information they need to cope with challenging medical conditions.

Never forget that, along with your stethoscope and other medical tools, you need to bring a kind smile and listening ear to your appointments and consultations. Always respect the fears and feelings of your patients, and never forget to show patience and kindness in dealing with them.

This concept is particularly true if you happen to deal with specific types of patients, such as animals, very old or very young people, persons facing critical or terminal illnesses, or individuals who may have phobias regarding physicians. Indeed, some people have white coat syndrome: an intense fear of doctors and doctors' offices. Others are simply worried, anxious, and sometimes irritable people in need of a guiding hand.

When working as a medical professional, it's important to treat others the way you like to be treated. It's important for everyone, and particularly medical professionals, to show sweetness and nurturance to others; particularly in times of illness and/or emotional distress.

Beyond kindness, honesty is another important ethical trait that all doctors should possess. You will have to communicate some harsh truths to your patients; and whether you're telling a patient that they might have a serious illness, or simply suggesting that they lose weight or drop a favorite habit like smoking or tanning, some words will not be easy to say. Yet as a physician, you owe it to yourself and to your patient to be honest at all times.

A strong moral code is also important in the life and career of a physician. Especially in these tough economic times, it's important to charge reasonable fees for your services; and perhaps to offer a sliding pay scale for poverty-stricken patients. Of course you have to pay your bills, but just remember that your patients are dealing with their own share of debts and responsibilities.

When beginning a career in the healthcare profession, just remember that patients are people; not lab dummies or dollar signs. As you dole out dosages of pills and medicines, make sure that you also include a hearty helping of love, honesty and morality. Only then will you become a well-rounded medical professional; and, as an added bonus, an exemplary human being.

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