Frequently people ask me why I chose to focus on palliative medicine for a career choice. I guess it can seem odd that someone would choose to spend much of their time with patients and families who are managing the physical and emotional challenges of either new or mounting medical problems that don’t often result in a cure. I’m drawn to it, however, because it represents medicine in its most vulnerable and powerful form. At some point, these medical problems often result in a life limiting or life threatening scenario for patients and families. When this happens, the uncertainty about how things are going to be moving forward along with the emotions that result are often overwhelming.
In spite of the uncertainty for what the future will bring and the sadness of change that patients live with when faced with a declining medical scenario, their desire to continue living a meaningful life never ceases. It is this knowledge that our team uses to identify goals both for patients and family. The most important of these goals is helping them to maintain their function for as long as possible and plan for the level of medical intervention that makes sense to them if they should continue to live ongoing decline. This is especially important if this decline results in the loss of a loved one.
In spite of the sadness that is sometimes associated with medical care of the sick, it is always rewarding (and humbling) to have the privilege in palliative medicine to be involved with and allowed to care for patients and families who manage the life changing journey of illness.
It continues to be a joy to work with the Palliative Care team at Eskenazi Health because of their collective choice to focus resolutely on patient and family wishes when talking about changes in health and the difficult decisions that are linked to them.