My health issues and experiences have made me more knowledgeable with healthcare and health advocacy. I have an interest in learning more about health and patient care via social media, current research, medical articles, and even TV series or movies. Currently, I enjoy watching THE GOOD DOCTOR, MYSTERY DIAGNOSIS, and GREY'S ANATOMY. However, my favorite medical show by far is THE RESIDENT on Fox.
When watching THE RESIDENT, I find myself loving the characters of Conrad, Devon, Mina, and Nic. Why? Simply because they are in medical care for the right reason, to help and protect patients! Unlike other medical staff and beauracrats, they are not driven by greed.
I am well aware that everything in THE RESIDENT is not accurate, that the real world does not function exactly like the show, that lines are grayer, and it's not realistic to expect doctors to take the extreme measures that they do on the show. However, it IS refreshing to see light and attention being brought to some of the negative aspects of our healthcare system. There are a lot of things going right, there are many exceptional doctors and nurses hidden in the often cold money-driven healthcare field, but also many areas and qualities that need improving. We need care and treatments to be with the best interest of the patient in mind.
In regards to this TV series, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching all of THE RESIDENT episodes thus far, some watched more than once. It is a show that I eagerly wait for and actually stay up later than usual to watch. Yes, there are wonderful personalities, actors/actresses, and drama that aides in making the show pleasurable to watch; But the medical storylines and doctor-patient connections are what draw me in the most.
Last night's episode, Season 1 Episode 6, was especially intriguing and compelling for me, as it focused around a patient that I could really relate to.
(Beware: Possible Spoiler Alert)
No, I do not have the same illness as him, though I am aware of MALS since some online friends have had it. The emotions that he portrayed, on the other hand, were extremely familiar. I could feel the pain, frustration, malnutrition, and testing fatigue, that having a misunderstood or unfamiliar GI condition can create. The most captivating patient of the night, was a young man that was suffering an injury partially due to malnutrition. He was facing nutritional deficiencies as a result of a chronic digestive problem that made it nearly impossible for him to eat. (Hmmm, ends up being a different condition than mine, but oh so real!!!) Throughout the episode, his goal was to feel better, but he desperately did not want to return to being a test dummy. He had learned from his medical experiences over the past 10 years, that doctors had no idea what was wrong with him or how to treat it. Therefore, he was hopeless about getting answers for his digestive health and nutrition and just wanted to correct the injury, then return to his "normal" life of suffering that he had unfortunately become accustomed to.
YES!!! Finally, a TV show that demonstrates how patients sometimes have doctors - for years - that are unsure how to diagnose or help a patient that is literally starving from malnutrition! Like many other patients I know, his past doctors just left him to figure out how to deal with it on his own! Sadly, this happens ALL THE TIME in the Gastroparesis and Functional GI Disorder communities.
This GI patient was pleading to just be left alone. He no longer wanted to be a pin cushion. He had been one too long already, with no answers or relief. Conrad, the ER resident doctor, was determined to help him without dragging him through a lot of unnecessary tests. Not surprsisingly, all of the "specialty" teams at the hospital swarmed in with a desire to run all kinds of tests, most of which he had already undergone numerous times before. Of course, they wanted their own tests (not another hospital's results) and saw the money that could be raked in - not taking any time to consider what stress and pain, physical and emotional, that additional testing would create for a patient that had accepted, as much as he possibly could anyway, living everyday with malnutrition and digestive pain. Not to mention, the psychological ("all in your head") ideology that's often thrown out there as a possible reason when doctors don't have the answers. Surprise, surprise. Isn't that a common diagnosis when a doctor is unable to figure out or "cure" someone from a chronic misunderstood condition? Especially one that is invisible.
I'm not nieve. I am sure that doctors and/or nurses in the medical field will deny that some, maybe even most, of things in this show occur in real life. I'm sure that many pin point parts of the show that are "ridiculous" in a true hospital setting or possibly even humorous, just like I do when watching movies about teaching. As a patient though, this series speaks volumes. Every single day I witness, hear, and read about patients going through similar situations. In fact, I too have felt like a testing dummy with no answers or effective treatments, just test after test. It becomes frustrating, stressful, and tiresome. At times, I too have felt like completely avoiding ERs (or doctors) for any situation, regardless of how severe my symptoms are, simply because I have lost hope that anything can be done to help me. I am hesitant to even bother with undergoing further aggravating and undesirable testing. I, like many other GI patients, have to depend on trial and error, off label medications, in hopes of better controlling the symptoms with no end in sight. The majority of diagnostic test that chronic GI patients have to endure are not only painful, but often exasperate symptoms and create more discomfort or additional problems, yet provide no new ideas toward treatment. It gets discouraging and old really quickly. Sometimes you just want to be "fixed" and leave, as he did with his injury, regardless of the malnutrition or other GI issues that may be going on at the present moment. Regardless of the outcome.
As chronic patients fighting an invisible GI illness, our condition is often mocked or ignored. I thought it was great how THE RESIDENT episode demonstrated this by showing the other doctors rambling on, ignoring the patient's opinion or story, arrogant, and more interested in money and countless testing, rather than the actual patient. Doctors that are nowhere to be found when hell breaks loose as a result of the tests' side effects on the patient. (Yep, these type of doctors due sadly exists in the real world.) Don't get me wrong, there are some valuable tests that can and need to be done, but retesting everything gets to be ridiculous and unnecessary. Meanwhile, Conrad took the time to listen and respect what the patient was thinking and experiencing. He was able to take into account the whole picture for this patient, seeing him as a person and not a price tag or business deal. Conrad was authentic and only wanted to help the patient reclaim his life, without the continuous pain and malnutrition.
Conrad is the perfect, IDEAL doctor. He CONNECTS with the patient, RESPECTS his patients' need for QUALITY OF LIFE without pain, shows COMPASSION, LISTENS, and LOOKS OUT for his patients' bests interests. There is no "patient shaming" from him and for once the writers on a medical related show didn't portray the patient with chronic pain as someone searching for pain medication. (Not all chronically ill patients want or use prescription pain medications. Many patients, like me, actually avoid them at all cost, as they are aware of the stigma and realize how they can increase GI problems by slowing down the entire digestive system. Most of the ones that do require pain medications are just looking for some relief of some sort to get through the most painful times. )
So, in reality, are there any doctors that share the same desirable qualities seen in Conrad's character? Absolutely! I've been lucky enough to run across a few of them. Unfortunately, some of them are no longer in charge of my care due to circumstances outside of our control, such as moving. However, if given the opportunity, I would immediate run back and place my care in their hands as fast as possible.
Are all doctors going to be able to solve every diagnosis or find the perfect treatment plan, as Conrad does on THE RESIDENT? Not necessarily. But, as a patient, that CAN be acceptable when you are able to trust your doctor completely and feel confident that he/she is on YOUR team, searching for what's best FOR YOU, and not just interested in the profit.
Can you imagine the comfort and relief it would be as a patient if all doctors thought and reacted as Conrad does? To have doctors that make an effort to talk with you because they really want to HEAR about your health story and the impact it has on your life, in your own words, instead of just what your medical record states.
In addition to Conrad's character, Devon's character (the intern), is also learning the importance of protecting and LISTENING to HIS patients. The action of listening is often neglected, yet is so simple and so meaningful to patients, especially patients dealing with chronic illness and fighting for a sustainable quality of life. Yes, I know that there are time restraints, electronic medical record requirements, and physician burn out issues. There's extra "paperwork" or responsibilities behind the scenes that patients aren't aware of. But, physicians actually taking the time to hear what their patients are saying and personally dealing with can be invaluable! Listening, empathizing, and understanding patients as a way to save lives, what a novel idea! This is just one major improvement that the health care system needs to reform!
Personally, I will never forget the doctors that have been there for me. I likely wouldn't be here today if it weren't for a couple of compassionate doctors that took a moment to hear me, believe me, and respect my personal needs and quality of life. They will always be remembered and appreciated. Unfortunately, I've also had some that were set in there ways, couldn't admit that they didn't know how to help, or even placed blame on me - only to create additional issues, intensify symptoms, or make me have to deal with some issues much longer than necessary.
My ultimate goal is to find more dependable "Conrad" doctors in the health care system and on my personal health team, and less of the "arrogant profit seekers."
Anyway, I look forward to seeing what else THE RESIDENT has to offer in the upcoming episodes! I wonder what situations and conditions will be presented and portrayed? Who knows, maybe one day they will create an episode including functional GI disorders, such as gastroparesis or colonic inertia. Maybe awareness will be brought to enteral nutrition from feeding tubes, or an episode including patients with ostomies. I don't want or expect to see just the rainbows and sunshines, I want to see real issues with realistic treatments and responses. Will everyone be cured? No. Will it make people witness different medical conditions, procedures, and the positive and negative aspects of medical care? I sure hope so.