Living in a rural area, I’m fortunate to have a primary care provider and access to several hospitals. It’s comforting to know that if and when I need help, it’s there.
One thing I’ve noticed is that we have long wait-times for appointments and over-crowding in our emergency departments and hospital floors.
Why is this?
The answer is simple: Because when health care providers aren’t busy caring for people who are sick, injured and suffering, we’re waiting for them to walk through our doors.
Does this sound similar to where you work?
Instead of going into the community and teaching health knowledge and skills, building resiliency and tackling the social determinants of health, we stay put and deal with problems as they happen.
Most of us working in emergency departments don’t re-direct people to use alternative, more appropriate locations of care in the moment. Instead, we make people wait and treat whoever comes in.
Most of us working on in-patient units and in long-term care facilities are so busy looking after sick people that we don’t have a chance to help them stay well and avoid needing us in the first place.
Most of us working in mental health are too overwhelmed by the number of people presenting with crises, traumas and mental illness that we don’t have time to teach resiliency so that people can cope with adversity.
And most of us working in primary health care don’t get outside our buildings and prevent problems before they happen. Instead, we wait for the next person with influenza, cancer, diabetes and hypertension to see us.
Our health care systems prioritize urgent problems, completing tasks and putting out fires. It’s hard to measure and reward insight, prevention, empathy and thinking differently. As a result, we’re busy and stuck.
The causes of many of the problems our patients experience are not inside our health care institutions and neither are the solutions. Yet we certainly act like they are.
I can only hope that more of us learn to see that a lot of what we do as health care providers is far removed from the kind of help people actually want and need.