I used to have a list of stories as long as my arm from dancers and other performing artists frustrated by their visits to doctors. But, now that list is as long as both arms and both legs, with a high chance that I will need to add more appendages to keep count. Artists need better healthcare!
Few things make my blood boil faster than hearing about performing artists who have bad experiences with doctors or other healthcare workers. Caring for someone properly requires first a sense of compassion and, second, a willingness to help someone to the best of your ability. Why is this apparently so difficult?
One of the most appalling stories came from a dancer who reported to me that her doctor made his diagnosis of her knee injury without laying a hand on her for an examination! Then, after his all-too-quick chat with the dancer, he told his nurse to apply a brace while he left to see the next patient. That was it. Doctor’s visit over.
THE PROBLEM AND HOW TO SOLVE IT
Repeatedly the performers I work with tell me that their doctors and other healthcare providers do not understand their artform. Worse, they don’t give the impression that they care to learn. I cannot believe the terrible lack of compassion amongst many of my colleagues in healthcare. My own and others’ research confirms this is a problem. I recognize there are two sides to every story and that I only get the artist’s side. However, I have received the same basic commentary so many times that I know the artists’ perspectives are accurate. Sadly, compassion is an increasingly rare characteristic in healthcare, and in our society at large.
But, what is actually important for a successful healthcare office visit by a performing artist? It is possible, and both parties have responsibilities.
HOW ARTISTS CAN GET BETTER HEALTHCARE
The performing artist must be a good healthcare consumer. Even if he/she is fortunate enough to receive care for free or at a reduced cost, it is important to gain maximum value from the healthcare visit. A few ways to ensure this:
- Bring a list of specific symptoms you are experiencing and another list of questions that pertain to understanding your condition or injury and its treatment. Make these concise and focused, not a novel.
- Respect your practitioner’s time. Every healthcare worker is extremely busy and under great stress. Do not expect that all your aches and pains can be evaluated in one visit (“Since I’m here, can you also look at…?”), or that you are owed unlimited amounts of conversation with the provider.
- Be gracious and grateful. Thank the practitioner for using his/her talent and skills to serve you, even if you are not 100% satisfied that you got all your answers. And watch the practitioner’s face when you express gratitude…you’ll be amazed what you see.
HOW PRACTITIONERS CAN GIVE BETTER HEALTHCARE TO ARTISTS
The practitioner must offer heartfelt assistance. Note the big difference between providing a solution and offering heartfelt assistance! Having a nurse put a dancer’s knee in a brace is providing a solution. Heartfelt assistance means all of these efforts precede application of that knee brace:
- Understanding the rigors of his/her performing arts participation
- Appreciating how his/her injury occurred
- Acknowledging how devastating the injury is to his/her artistic efforts and life in general
- Satisfying him/her that you are trying your best to diagnose and treat the problem
WHAT BOTH ARTISTS AND PRACTITIONERS MUST DO
Good communication in both directions is ultra-important…reporting accurately, listening carefully, and valuing people as people will solve many problems, or prevent them entirely.
Better healthcare for performing artists doesn’t seem overly complicated to me, but there are lots of artists in this world who think it is. Discouraged by the healthcare profession, many would rather suffer with their injuries…and that breaks my heart. So, spread these tips far and wide because we can do better!