From the entry point into medical school, students are taught to seek the evidence, to evaluate the evidence and to look for the gaps in the evidence. We are taught to read the plethora of literature that is published daily as the scientific world explodes and to evaluate this for validity, concreteness and to determine if this new concept will help us treat patients in a more advanced way or lower cost of care.
I always struggle with this. I do not feel that I fit into this mold of evaluation. Yes, I know there is a purpose to this process. Our patients look to us to vet research studies so that we can translate new information in order to provide great medical care.
Yet, I still struggle with this – looking at the data and finding the confidence interval or the number needed to treat. My brain is not wired to do this easily. I find myself asking – why? What will this really do for my patient? How does this really change their quality of life? How does this really impact their time here on Earth? What if things were just much simpler?
Then, my mind switches to – how do I impact their life here on Earth? What are they destined for that they do not even see as a possibility in their world? How do I open their eyes?
This is where my line of questioning has me on a path that veers so far from the data. Every time I look at a study, I walk this path even though it does not give me the standard evidence-based answer. I tried resisting this walk – making myself go back to the data. This resisting frankly burnt me out as resisting is hard work and takes so much effort.
I am learning how to not resist. How to sit with the idea that maybe the way I evaluate evidence and the questions I ask is my true gift. Those who love the data have a skill that I cannot even fathom and our world needs them. Maybe, for some of us, who do not relish in the world of statistics, our evidence comes from a different type of data.
Maybe, our data is elusive but in plain sight. For me, there is no number I can ascribe to the feeling I have when I see the potential health and healing for someone. I have a confidence interval that is rooted in something you cannot find on paper, but rooted in the calling that I have to heal and the magic of the human spirit. These concepts might sound very abstract to some, but for those of us who this sparks a fire within – we must have faith that we bring something amazing to the medical community. We bring the human spirit and a belief that the impossible can be possible.
I challenge all of us to take a step back from the scientific evidence for a short while each day and observe the power that the human spirit combined with hope has on us and our patients. We all might find that there is great comfort and healing in just taking a small amount of time each day to allow magic back into our daily life. We might find that we are the true patient we are trying to find the evidence for all along. The evidence to provide ourselves healing has always been in plain sight, we just never have taken the time to look for it as it is not readily found in the data.
Maybe, even when we lean on the statistics, the real evidence is based on a little bit of mystery and magic. Maybe, the art of medicine we all seek lies in this magic. If we allow a little more mystery in our life, maybe some of the joy might find its way back to all of us healers.
I have been where you are - I had always chosen stay on the same safe path. Then, one day, I believed in myself enough and that I was worth it enough to finally start listening to the inner voice that had been calling to me to take a huge leap into the unknown, to bet on myself with so much might - that I could be my most important patient and make any dream a reality. It is amazing to follow your inner voice and dream big.