Our thanks to Dr Geoffrey Wechuli for this month’s contribution.
Following our return to Kenya from the life transforming 2016 PRIME conference held in the UK, I embarked on disseminating the principles learned and the theme of the conference. This theme, that we were made in the image of God and that God loves and cares for us, body mind and spirit; and that we should extend the same love and care to others by loving and ministering to the whole person. Indeed God is as much concerned and cares about our broken bones as our broken lives! This is the approach our great physician, Jesus Christ used in His healing ministry while here on earth and as His followers we follow in His steps.
My initial mandate was to strategize on how this information would be passed on with full support of the county and ensure good reception. And thus:
- I met the county Chief Officer of Health for feedback and requested to present the whole person medicine (WPM) approach to care to staff in the county through the available CME (Continued Medical Education) avenues.
- Since I head the CME activities at Kapsabet County Referral Hospital, this was my first entry point and we had two different sessions of WPM.
- Since I supervise and mentor Medical officer interns, clinical officers and nurses, I trusted God to help me impart the values and principles of WPM to them as we interacted and in the way I related and handled patients. This to me is such a powerful tool for transformation to both the healthcare professionals and the users of the healthcare system.
- I also requested permission to hold WPM sessions at other major hospitals in the county using the CME platform. This was granted but has not been actualized due to logistical reasons.
- Through the CMDA-K Eldoret region chapter which I coordinate:
– We held two sessions on the seven level model of WPM
– There was one session, co-presented between Dr Kizito and I on how to practically offer spiritual care to patients
– One session on faith healing and science as a follow up to the above sessions
The teaching and practice of WPM requires a paradigm shift in attitude and approach to patient care. Our medical teaching has to fundamentally change. The message within the core of our medical education has been that professional distance is critical in patient care. That as a doctor, one should not be involved in the patient’s, private fears, emotions, feelings and hopes and that doing this would be detrimental to objectivity and care of the patients. As such we have had doctors whose focus is entirely on the biophysical state of the patient at the total exclusion of the psycho-spiritual component. We were taught and mentored by our teachers in this and with time this attitudes and ‘medical culture’ was engrained in us. To change this perception we need a change in the way the entire system of medical education and practice is done. These were the subconscious attitudes and positions I encountered as I shared WPM. On the other hand we had folks who sat through the sessions with rapt attention and desired to hear the sessions over and over again. This was the reason for repeating of some sessions.
The first sessions always elicited many questions and led to a repeat of the presentation, supposedly to those who missed the first session. However people always came back for subsequent sessions. Some of the fundamental questions raised were whether this practice is possible and whether there would be ample time to practice medicine while at the same time carry out spiritual care. This, depicting the dualism that has been taught and practiced over time. Others wondered whether this is possible in a multi-religious environment.
We emphasized the importance of a values-based approach in patient care and teaching. Love is a basic value desired and appreciated by all regardless of religious inclination. Since as Christians this is within our moral fibre, it flows out of us with such spontaneity that there can be no set times and opportunities to care with or without love. Thus as we see the patients in the ward, as we teach the interns and other students, as we interact with other staff we do as our mentor and great physician did, by taking care of the whole person and with respect knowing the person bears the image of God! Thus we can not deal with the bio-physical state of the patients and afford not to see the fears or hopelessness on the face, the patients despair. All these happening at the psycho-spiritual realm. The emphasis therefore is in having the right attitude and values as we practice.
My approach to teaching was through reflective thinking, question and answer and partly though overviews and mini-lecture.
Practicing what I had learned and taught in the CME was critical. I observed that various staff and patients were keen to note the difference it would make to care for patients beyond physical treatment. Such simple acts as active listening, showing concern, touch etc changed the patients perspective of their dis-ease. I consciously knew that as a mentor to other doctors they were keenly observing so they can catch those values they had heard me present with passion about.
I feel there is a need to hold a regional WPM forum in Eldoret so that this can be presented in depth and with action points on how we can hold one another to account. This has been shared with the national coordinators and we pray and hope such plans will materialize soon.
Most importantly for us who know the message, is our daily lives and practice which as an open book/ letter is read by all. Every person we interact with. We can extend God’s love and care to them through the practice of WPM.
Finally, God has placed an open door for me to join Family Medicine faculty at Kabarak University, Kenya. I see this as a platform to teach and practice WPM and therefore influence the lives of other doctors who will go through training at Kabarak. We can change the world, one person at a time.