(Photo | by asawin form PxHere)
Over the years I’ve learned that the best way to provide quality primary care is to establish a relationship with my patients and collaborate, rather than give orders or ultimatums. I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from my patients that lifestyle and habit change cannot occur after one 20-minute visit in the primary care office. Meaningful changes can take years of conversation and connection, but can truly impact a person’s health.
Listening with Compassion
Like all healthcare providers, I’ve faced challenging encounters with patients who are not ready to give up certain chemicals or harmful activities in their lives even though I can see that it would truly benefit them. These are crossroads we encounter daily, and as providers we are charged with relinquishing all judgement and continuing compassionate conversation towards meaningful change. Awareness and curiosity have really helped me come to a middle ground with the human beings I care for.
I often hear traumatic stories about how the medical system has failed the patient in the past and that they hold too much fear or mistrust pharmaceutical industries, or are influenced by poorly supported claims read in media or on-line. Sitting and listening with compassion, setting attainable goals, supporting their right to choice and explaining our experience and science-based practice are some of the strategies we use in order to motivate healing.
The Impact of Choosing to be Unvaccinated
Recently, I have seen and heard a lot of conversation and judgement about patient decisions not to vaccinate for COVID-19 and — despite all my years of practice and patience — I am also guilty of this. I have a spouse working tirelessly as an ER nurse, and a mother who has worked for 50 years as a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, Oregon. I am watching my team members in primary care slowly leave the profession because patients and co-workers will not receive a life-saving vaccine.
Nationwide, 95-97 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Locally, in Central Oregon, our hospitalized COVID-19 patients are 98-99 percent unvaccinated. In this case, the choice of these patients to be unvaccinated is directly increasing the physical risk to my closest family members and contributing to potential burn-out for them and their team members. It is also taking up resources and bed space from my patients who need surgery and emergency care.
The surges of unvaccinated human beings who were fearful of the injection are again crowding our schedules for follow-up, and carrying long-COVID symptoms that are difficult to treat. Those of us who have been resilient through the initial pandemic, and now again with the unvaccinated surge, continue to carry on despite knowing that this disease could have easily been prevented if patients chose to vaccinate. I continue to work on reserving judgement, by holding an awareness of the situations of our neighbors, their past traumas and their access to care and education.
A Request for the Experiences of Healthcare Providers to be Heard
We can continue to motivate patients to change their views on vaccination by instilling trust, reducing fear and continuing to provide care, while at the same time showing them how this decision is causing their community and healthcare providers to suffer. As we navigate this wave of COVID-19, primarily in patients who have chosen not to vaccinate, I implore patients to learn more about the experiences of healthcare providers, the impact of healthcare provider shortages and the levels of professional burn-out that their decisions are directly influencing.
We are here for our community and we beg you to be here for us. Our healthcare teams across Central Oregon have committed their careers to caring for our community, sacrificing nights of sleep, time with loved ones and increased risks of exposure. I hope that some patients out there can overcome their fears of the vaccine, not just for their own health and well-being, but also for those around them and for the healthcare workers in their emergency rooms, hospital floors and clinics caring for them with compassion.
Jessica LeBlanc, MD MPH is the Chief Health Officer at Mosaic Medical. She has committed her career I to supporting community health center establishments, maintaining the philosophy that everyone deserves the right to healthcare, no matter whether they are uninsured, on Medicaid, Medicare or privately insured. She is grateful to Mosaic and all of her teammates across the organization who continue to strive to keep this mission alive in our communities.