Decalogue for Doctors

1. When the patient enters your office – stand up, shake his hand, introduce yourself and follow the same at the bedside. Show respect for the patient – the patient is often older than you and has other, sometimes richer, life and professional experience. The fact of the disease does not entitle you to look down on them – they just have an unhealthy liver or bone marrow, but did not cease being a human being and, therefore, deserve compassion (which established medicine). Show your sympathy and respect due to every newly met person. Remember that you owe your medical knowledge to your teachers and studies but also patients from whom you learn the symptomatology of diseases and reactions to drugs (most of which you have never used).
2. Treat the patient politely, like a guest at your home. Ask about a job, career achievements and family. Ask what you can do to help and then listen patiently and explain doubts.
3. Do not show impatience, haste or nervousness. Show the patient your faith in therapeutic success, mobilise the patient to actively participate in the fight against disease under your guidance, convince the patient that you will not leave them alone, offer – figuratively and in reality – your support in the time of health crisis. The patient has to follow you in faith and conviction in your skills, competence, kindness and selflessness.
4. Make the patient feel the most important to you at that moment, convince them that you are interested in them and that their illness is a challenge for you and a mystery to solve.
5. Show respect for the patient, lean over them and show your understanding of their problems and concerns. Let your patient be your partner – it will help you to gain their trust and cooperation in the healing process and will help you to convince him about the validity of your medical actions.
6. Remember that at the time of health crisis each person feels fear, uncertainty about the future, and expects the worst. Your patient is in a new situation, afraid of diagnostic procedures and expects your interest, warmth, as well as composure, concentration and confidence in making decisions. Also remember that any decision must be approved by the patient who must be convinced about its validity.
7. When entering a sick room, coming to the patient – leave your home and professional troubles behind as well as your own health problems – they should not affect your behaviour, speed and accuracy of making decisions. Your gloomy face, bad mood, the lack of smile can be read incorrectly by the patient as a lack of hope and adversely affect the well-being and condition of the patient. Be responsible also for the atmosphere in your medical team, kindness and mutual respect are needed by the healthy and the sick.
8. Remember that “the doctor should like their patients and feel responsible for them” (Antoni Kępiński). Treat your patients as you would like your loved ones to be treated in illness.
9. “Do not take away the hope of thy neighbour” (Julian Aleksandrowicz). “Not bringing a man hope is worse than making him blind or killing him” (Marek Hłasko). Bring hope and create a chance to make it real through the improvement of treatment conditions and a holistic approach to the patient in combination with his surrounding, profession, personal habits and interpersonal relations. Take into account the patient’s psychosomatic unity and unique individuality. “Nothing that can affect the health of my patient will be indifferent to me” (Hippocrates).
10. Do not expect gratitude from patients – it’s nice if they express it, but remember that giving health to the patient is a privilege granted only to the medical profession; in this sense, the doctor is equal to kings and presidents – he can give life to others…

Prof. Aleksander B. Skotnicki, MD, PhD