There’s a movie out there that never did too well in the theatres.
It’s called The Patient, and William Hurt plays the titular character: a doctor who has been diagnosed with cancer. Hurt’s character, at the top of his game, leads a fast life and his interactions with patients could hardly be described as a good bedside manner.
But now he’s getting a taste of what it’s like to be on the other end of the stethoscope, complete with all the coldness and brushing off he’s ever treated anyone with.
It’s an emotional movie and by the end Hurt shows that he has learned something about the vulnerability and humanity of his patients. He even sends his class of students to the hospital, clad in butt-baring robes, to experience what it’s like to be a patient for a week.
But there is something missing from this movie, and that is the pressure patients put on doctors and nurses in return.
Patients are demanding, you can take that from someone who has lain in a hospital bed for a week. Some are truly in a great deal of pain, requiring a lot of attention. Others just want attention – like having their pillow adjusted – and go from pushing on the call button to yelling at the top of their lungs when they don’t get what they want, right now.
Plus, nurses and other staff have to deal with some particularly disgusting jobs at times. When you look at it, it’s a wonder we have any health workers still in the business.
But they do stay. And that makes them heroes in my books. Sure, facing down COVID was a great example of their fortitude, but healthcare workers will continue to persevere long after the disease is no longer considered a pandemic threat.
The movie has the intention of showing how dehumanizing the hospital system can be, and it does so, in a touching, emotional, manner. But perhaps another portion of the story needs to be told. How about the effect on nurses and other health care workers by the demanding behaviour of patients?
We’ve all had hospital experiences like William Hurt’s – let’s just hope they were alleviated by the touch of a gentle hand or a quick laugh.