For the last several years I have been receiving monthly email alerts from three medical education journals: Medical Teacher, Medical Education and Academic Medicine. These provide hyperlinks to the latest publications in the respective journals, either giving free access to a title and abstract, to a whole paper, or to a paper that requires Athens or similar access to read it.
Summaries of many of the papers I’ve read have found their way into PRIME international emails, as many of them have been about topics that are core aspects of PRIME’s teaching and vision.
Examples include: the continuing issue of empathy maintenance in health professionals’ training, the problem of burnout, professionalism and how it should be taught, restoring virtue to health professional education, being patient centred, being agents for change, communication skills, compassion, the use of humanities (art, literature) in medical education, and the importance of role-modelling.
What all these publications explicitly or implicitly reveal is that the core values of compassion and respect for all individuals and a person-centred approach to health care provision, all have a positive impact on patient outcomes and health-care professional wellbeing. Gradually (but at an increasing rate), more and more publications are dealing with these issues and contributing to a growing weight of evidence that supports PRIME’s core values and approach (for example, Google Scholar currently lists over 137,000 publications on the benefits of compassion in healthcare).
Should this surprise us? Of course not. It is simply the truth that Jesus demonstrated during his earthly ministry – caring for and healing the sick, getting alongside the bereaved, welcoming the marginalised, touching the untouchables, releasing people from oppression and sometimes even raising the dead. He was all about demonstrating the reality of God’s Kingdom values in the often messy, painful and broken lives of anyone whom he met, unafraid to speak truth to power in a way that ultimately led to his crucifixion, death and (surprise!) resurrection.
As his followers we feel the truthful, loving congruence of the things he did, and all over the world today similar things continue to happen in usually unrecorded and little-known ways and places where faithful believers follow his call to serve their neighbours.
We don’t need scientific evidence to know that these are self-evidently good things to do, but as the health-care professions work from a science base it is nevertheless good to have it. What we seek to do is increasingly ‘proven’ to be good for our patients, students and for ourselves, so there can be no rational objections to seeking to spread this kind of practice all over the world, as PRIME is seeking to do.
There are some similarities here, I’d suggest, with what Cosmologists call the ‘Anthropic Principle’ – the values of the constants of nature that have a bearing upon the existence of human life.
‘Humanity’s very existence shows that the current structure of the universe and the values taken by the constants of nature permit life to exist. Indeed, it appears that many features of the universe that are necessary for the evolution and persistence of life are the results of unusual coincidences between different values of the constants of nature – quantities such as the mass of the electron, the strength of gravity, or the lifetime of the neutron. The significance of these coincidences is not understood. What is understood is that, if these quantities were even just slightly altered, then no form of complexity or life could exist in the universe’.
Now, we don’t need the Anthropic principle to believe in a Creator, but the sheer statistical improbability of such fine-tuning coming into being by chance is totally congruent with the existence of such a Being.
Similarly, we don’t need the evidence from medical education journals and publications to know that teaching and practising Christian values based whole person care is good for our patients, students and ourselves, but it is good to have it to reinforce our mission and vision, and to strengthen the appeal of our work to colleagues who may not be aware of it. The growing weight of evidence means it is an increasingly inescapable truth.
Huw Morgan is a retired GP and member of the PRIME management team. This article is reproduced by kind permission from the PRIME newsletter.