I have been very blessed in my life to have reasonably good health. When things have gone wonky in my body, they have been largely gynecological in nature. (Good times!) As a result of this, quite a few doctors, nurses, and PAs have examined my. . .most inward parts. In fact, I did the math recently and a solid dozen medical professionals have had the pleasure of examining that particular part of my anatomy.
In my life, four medical professionals have stood out from the pack, and have made me feel like an intelligent human being, rather than an anonymous number that was just standing in the way of the next patient. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them.
To the nurse practitioner who actually sat down and talked with me, after I had been going from doctor to doctor for three years because of mysterious pain and was able to diagnose me with vulvar vestibulitis. Thank you for realizing that sometimes a conversation can be a better diagnostic tool than the most complicated procedure.
To the PA who treated me for said condition with humor and compassion and minimal medical and no surgical intervention. Thank you for having a solution to a problem that had plagued me for years and giving me the tools that would make my pain almost unnoticeable.
To the GP who was so personally invested in all her patients that we would have arguments about which one of us was her favorite. Thank you for being the kind of doctor that called my neighbor, who had been having weird headaches, and telling him to meet you at the ER for a CT scan on your day off because you just couldn't shake the feeling something was wrong. I thank you, because I know you would have done that for any of us.
To the third gynecologist I went to see about my fertility problems. Thanks for being the first of the three not to dismiss me or patronize me. Thanks for being the first of the three to let me keep my pants on, actually reading my chart, and not assuming I was visiting you for a pap smear. Thank you for treating me like a full partner in my medical care. Thank you for striking a balance between optimism and pragmatism and recognizing the emotional impact not being able to conceive can have on a person. Thanks for being the first to not tell me to "just relax".
What all four of these had in common was this thread of conversation–they all asked me questions about what was going on in my body, rather than telling me what was "normal" for a woman my age. They all met with me in their offices before examining me. They all took time with me and appointments never felt rushed. They have set a high, high standard for me of what a patient-physician relationship should be like and now if I feel unheard in a first meeting with a physician, I don't go back.
And this all makes me reflect, of course, on my own ministry. Do I really take time to listen when people tell me about their pastoral problems? Do I jump to conclusions or solutions rather than treating them like full partners in their spiritual health? Do I spend my time with parishioners or do I keep an eye on the clock, hoping they will wrap up their story before my next appointment?
I can only hope that in my ministry, I show the same care and compassion that these doctors have shown to me.