What Makes a Great Patient? 5 Things to Know.

If you’re a health conscious person or have been battling with an illness, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time searching for the right physician. Perhaps in the back of your mind, even formulating some notion of what makes a good doctor: Do they offer a well-rounded treatment approach? Do they listen to you and acknowledge your concerns? Have they had a lot of success with patients similar to you? – But how often do you ask yourself the question of what makes a good, or even better, a great patient? – And why is that important?

Just as a great sports coach starts off with a good set of skills, his greatness comes, at least in part, from working with great athletes. With the right qualities and characteristics, we can make good doctors into great healers, and ourselves into case studies of incredible healing success.

Are you a good patient, how about a great one?

Here are 5 Qualities that Make a Great Patient

1. Trust

Do you have faith in the healing process?

Recovery is not linear but riddled with ups and downs. Often times, especially if you’ve been ill for any lengthy period of time, you may experience doubts about whether your current approach is really working. Some patients become excited at the onset of a new treatment, enthralled by therapies they may not have seen before, and hopeful and excited for a speedy recover. Initially they may even feel a great boost in their health and energy. But then it happens… a plateau, or a dip in vitality. And all that hope and enthusiasm for recovery begins to wane.

Not only is this common, but it’s normal and it’s okay! Dips do happen. In fact, they’re to be expected as part of the road to recovery. What makes a great patient, is their ability to recognize, amidst a dip, that progress is still being made. It might feel like a set-back but nothing is ever lost, so long as we keep moving forward. Somewhat ironically, it requires us to be our strongest when we’re feeling at our weakest: You may not feel like persevering; you may not understand why you feel the way you do, but having trust means the ability to see this time for what is – a passing discomfort in an otherwise long, happy and healthy life. When you adopt this mindset, what once felt like a setback becomes a set-up for greater inner strength and ultimate healing potential. 

The only mistake you can make when experiencing a dip, is failing to recognize how far you’ve come and how close to the finish you are. Trust and faith is not easy to practice in the absence of physical evidence (perhaps that’s why they call it a leap), but it is just that, a practice. And like any practice, it gets easier the more you do it. The great patient views each dip or challenge as an opportunity to practice this skill and strengthen his faith, knowing that: in those most human of moments (weakness and uncertainty), it’s those who keep moving forward with a sense of “no matter what” that always inevitably reach their destination.  

“At the final moment, the last vestiges of doubt and existential fear may surface from the depths. At that point, faith in the teachings of the masters that direct us to ‘Walk straight ahead, no matter what’ arises and proves to be correct, for the glory of God awaits on the other side of the last great barrier.

David Hawkins, MD, PHd

2. Commitment

Are you fully committed to participating in your journey of recovery?

In the old western medical model, the doctor was seen as the provider of health. You got sick, you went to the doctor and he would give you the medicine – essentially, give you your health. We now know that that isn’t remotely the way healing works. At our medical center and others that embrace an integrative approach, the role of the doctor is not to “bestow health” or manage sick patients, but rather, to restore their own ability to self-heal. When you have a paper cut, the cleansing, sanitizing, and dressing of the wound sets the stage for healing, but the healing occurs from nature on its own. 

As an extension of your trust and faith in your body’s innate ability to heal (and our physicians’ ability to set the best stage for healing), a strong commitment is required on the part of each patient to also set that stage and maintain the conditions for optimal healing to occur. This is done by upholding a variety of lifestyle changes. 

It isn’t in your power (or ours) to “make” the healing happen. Just as a farmer does not “make” his crops grow. What he does is till the soil, fertilize the land, plant the seeds, and nurture them with water and minerals to create the best conditions that support the growth of life. While the doctor provides specialized treatments (akin to those minerals and nutrients) that facilitate a healing response, you, the patient must optimize your internal and external environment through proper nutrition, rest, and a positive recovery mindset. 

“Nature doesn’t hurry yet everything is accomplished.”

Zen Proverb

Innovative Medicine has a wonderful library of resources to help you improve your nutritional, physical, and emotional health as well as support your spiritual development.

Related: Take This, NOT That – What Supplements Should I Take?

3. Reasonable Expectations

Do you understand that healing & recovery does not happen all over night?

As we’ve mentioned above, health & healing come not from the physician, but from nature. And nature sets its own pace. If you’ve been ill for a long time as may patients who come to see us have been, you may feel as though your patience has run out and you simply can’t be ill any longer. And while we always hope for and do everything possible to set the stage for a swift recovery, we must respect the healing process. Our number one priority is to provide the best possible care, so that nature can do its best job. 

A great patient understands that some winters can last longer than others, perhaps longer than we’d like them to. You may have been hoping for beach weather next month and expecting to wear your new swimsuit, but the weather didn’t cooperate. It is in times like these that the great patient will be flexible, adjust his expectations, and smile on the inside knowing that spring and summer are still on their way.

This same flexible mentality applies to medical treatments as well. Sometimes, we may have a strong expectation of what we need in our minds. Perhaps you know someone who received a specific type of treatment that worked well for them, and you hope to receive that same treatment as well and experience the same result. But each person is highly unique. We know from countless studies and clinical experience that you can give 100 patients the exact same treatments and get 100 completely different results. What works for one person may not work for you. 

One aspect that sets the Innovative Medicine approach apart and enables treatments to be so effective is that there is a high level of personalization. Tremendous amounts of time, backed by decades of research and experience are applied to evaluating each patient and developing a program that is best for them.

So in addition to trust, faith, and commitment to the process – a great patient is also one that is flexible in his expectations while trusting in the doctor’s and medical team’s ability to provide the best individualized care.

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4. Beginner’s Mind 

Do you see yourself as a student or a customer?

As western medicine is a product of western consumer culture, many of us are used to being customers. And as you may know the first rule of customer service is “the customer is always right.” Combine this with the fact that we also live in the age of information where patients regularly research their own symptoms, conditions and available treatment options, and it makes for a very unique medical marketplace. Many clinics have jumped on board the consumer driven train and offer their patients an a la carte menu of therapies they’d like to receive. And while this model may work for cosmetic treatments and basic lifestyle enhancements, we believe that it breaks down when applied to complex chronic conditions.

Related: Patient Prep: The Healing Mindset

Because there are so many factors involved in complex chronic ailments, we maintain that an enormous amount of education and experience is absolutely required in order to apply the correct therapies and do so in the correct manner. For those who come to top medical clinics with an Innovative Medicine approach to healing (like NYCIM), they can rest assured that centuries of wisdom combined with decades of clinical experience and working with thousands of complex cases, are all being applied to their treatment.

Not only does this ensure that each person’s treatment is best suited for him or her, it also provides them with an amazing opportunity to learn. A great patient is curious and inquisitive, yet understands that their treatment is backed by knowledge and clinical experience and therefore does not assume the role of a customer by picking and choosing which products they’d like. Every product (in this case, treatment) has a very specific function. Learning is wonderful and we support you to do it by offering you a vast library of resources. But learning is only effective when you adopt the right mindset: the beginner’s mind.

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

5. Purpose

Are you internally driven to heal and recover?

Numerous scientific studies have shown that those with a strong sense of purpose heal faster than those without. Daily practices such as gratitude, prayer and meta (loving kindness) meditation have proven to strengthen the immune system and hasten cellular regeneration. 

This is perhaps, the most important quality of all when it comes to being a great patient and making the most of your treatment and recovery. Not only does a strong sense of purpose impact your physiology in a positive way, it also impacts your psychology and makes it easier to take the steps and actions that will aid you in your recovery. 

Just think about the difference in results you’d likely find between a patient who is sent by his parents to a behavioral change psychologist, versus the one who attends out of his own intrinsic motivation to change. Psychologists always say, if the patient does not want to change, there is little they can do.

“To realize one’s purpose, is a person’s only real obligation.”

Paulo Coelho

The body is an extension of the mind. If something is holding you back from fully wanting to heal, the body will receive that signal just as it would receive the opposite message – that you have a strong purpose and reason to get better. Now, you may be thinking, “of course I want to get better, why wouldn’t I?” – and that’s great! But healing and recovery is not just a physical process, it’s a spiritual one as well and sometimes prompts you to ask difficult questions such as: “is there something holding me back?” 

As you ask such question, answers begin to emerge. You may not be crystal clear on exactly what your purpose is, and that’s absolutely fine. But it is important to know that your life does have a purpose, and your healing must happen in order for it to be fulfilled.

Related: Conquering Lyme Disease – Heather’s Story

Equipped with these 5 qualities, you won’t just be a good patient, you’ll be an outstanding one and 100% capable of achieving full health.

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