Posted Feb. 24, 2015
By Bill Brennan, M.A., R.T.(R)(CT), CIIP
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia
This past week I was with a family member who is in final stages of their time on this earth. In the many dark hours that I spent with this loved one I had the opportunity to witness the importance of human touch and the difference it can make to our patients and their families. This is something that every technologist needs to remember every time they interact with a patient.
I remember that when I first started radiography school, one of the hardest things I had to overcome was the fact that in order to do my job I actually had to put my hands on a patient. I know it sounds silly to some but I had always been raised not to invade someone’s personal space. Now I had to actually palpate for landmarks and position patients in ways that I never dreamed of. Like most things, this soon became routine to me as an accepted part of the job. My touch was professional and had a very specific purpose: to get the best images I could. However, this week I witnessed a different kind of touch with a very different purpose.
My loved one was in a medical crisis from which she will not recover but she is cognizant of all this entails and fully capable of making her own medical decisions. What amazed me was the way the doctor delivered the message and worked through the decision process. The entire time he held her hand and looked into her eyes. He made sure she understood the ramifications of her decisions and totally respected those decisions. He did not talk down to her or impose his will on her. There were four of us in the room, yet this physician was totally focused on his patient. When the conversation was over and he left the room, we all felt better.
As radiologic technologists we become experts in the technology we use. We might be able to master the intricacies of a $3 million CT, MR or PET scanner and that is expected of us. However, I hope we never lose sight of the fact that every day we touch our patients. Let us remember the difference that a kind, gentle touch, a look in the eyes and a softly spoken word can really make to the patient. We will never have to deliver the kind of news that this doctor did today, but we can still make everyone feel a whole lot better just by delivering a little of that human touch – and isn’t that really why we chose this great profession? We wanted to help people. Let us not forget it.