I was reading an excellent article the other day, over at the wonderful blog ‘The Patient Patient‘. In one post, Anya (who I have recently become good friends on Twitter) writes about what it means to be patient and being a patient,. For example looking at the origins of the word patient. It really is well worth reading; and all of you battling chronic illness will surely relate.
Over the past couple of days, this article has particularly resonated with me. The word ‘patient‘ can be defined as ‘someone bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship , pain, etc, with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like’. As a noun, however, the definition changes as ‘someone who is under medical care or treatment’. Therefore, the word itself ‘patient‘ can also be used as a form of our identity – as many of us, especially when considering chronic illness, we are often under the care of medical professionals and are often receiving medical care or treatment. Even more interestingly, Anya also delves into the archaic meaning of the word ‘patient‘ – according to the dictionaries the origin of the word can be traced back to Middle French and latin with the word describing as ‘one who is suffering’ or ‘one who suffers’.
It is ironic, however, that the word ‘patient’ has these two different meanings – as many of us can testify too – patients (those undergoing medical treatment) do need a lot of patience! Take my case, I was referred due to the deterioration of many of my symptoms back to the Neurology back in early February. It has taken several weeks, however, to even receive a letter confirming that I am on the waiting list to see a neurological consultant.
On the letter, I noticed that some of the details about myself, were wrong so following instructions set out in the letter, I phoned the relevant department to inform them of the correct details. This little job itself, meant that I was on hold for approximately 15 minutes before speaking to a real-life person. This obviously required a lot of patience in itself! Then after taking all of the correct information, the secretary informed me that the average waiting time to even see a consultant was around 26 weeks. That is almost 6 and a half months! This is typical, especially with a specialty like Neurology – at my local hospital there are no neurologists on staff; which means that I have to travel further afield to be seen, or wait until they have a Neurology Outpatient Clinic at the local hospital (which is are in itself). Even waiting for an appointment to see a doctor at my local GP Surgery can mean a wait of up to 2 weeks.
So, these anecdotes just goes to show that being a chronically ill patient needs a lot of patience – and to wait our turn to be seen by a consultant should be done without complaint – after all, making a fuss isn’t going to get us seen any faster, is it? And as all of the media reports suggest the NHS is overstretched with all the demands of treating a vast range of unpredictable chronic illnesses. However, I often myself go back and forward from being inpatient and wanting to see a consultant as soon as possible, especially when symptoms are bad, to understanding how difficult the demands that are placed on the NHS are, and how I am sure many of the doctors and nurses, wish that they can see everyone as swiftly as possible.
So, instead of complaining, it looks like I will have to learn patience and wait until it is my turn to be seen…
Read Anya’s Post: ‘The Patient Patient: What’s in a name?‘
Follow Anya on Twitter: @anyadei