The Power of Touch

A recent article in the New York Times, Losing Touch with the Patient, explored changing trends in Physician interaction within patient care. The topic comes up in relation to the treatment of patient who is isolated in a hospital due to an antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria. In order for this patient to have any visitors, doctors, or nurses in his room, full protective gear was required to prevent transmission of the unknown bacteria. Slowly doctors began spending less time with him, the nurses withdrew, and even his wife lost the desire to “garb up.” Eventually, the patient fell into a deep depression from the isolation and eventually succumbed to cardiac arrest.

In the medical community today, Physicians are realizing there is a serious disconnect between their sense of duty to reach out to patients, and a newly imposed fear that hospitals are no longer a safe haven and are more simply an uncontrollable pool of pathogens. Often times, individuals who are the most ill, would benefit the greatest from the power of a simple touch. Studies have shown that this newly found fear among Physicians has the ability to compromise the quality of care delivered to patients.

As a society hyper focused on infections, germs and the ever-present CDC scare, have caretakers given up on the power of touch? Dr. John Bastyr, a renowned Seattle area Naturopathic Physician and the namesake of Bastyr University, relied heavily on the power of touch. The importance Dr. Bastyr placed on using our hands was no doubt due to its inexplicable ability to move the body towards a more effective healing process. This leads me to my deeper question: How will the loss of patient contact affect the quality of healthcare in the long run? In my opinion, one of the most important qualities about Naturopathic medicine is the art behind the science. A skillful Naturopath not only understands the scientific foundation of the body, but also the intimate emotional, spiritual and mental functions that can bolster or hinder our internal healing processes. Within our science, we have art: the art of laying our hands on our patients and bringing forward a true healing process. This is a process that should not be lost in the years to come, and a process that may set Naturopaths apart from the rest of the medical community.

References:

Chen, Pauline W. “Losing Touch with the Patient.” Www.nytimes.com. 21 Oct. 2010. Web. 21 Oct. 2010.

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