Are you a person or a patient?

If you’ve been spending time with doctors or health professionals – or even just reading a lot – you may start identifying yourself as a patient. Don’t do it. While it’s a convenient word for the health care profession to use (and I’m trusting it’s generally used with good intentions), it also brings some potentially subconscious dehumanizing baggage with it.

By it’s nature, a patient is of a lower “class” if you will than a doctor. And, there is a long history of a power differential in this relationship, and power hasn’t historically been with the “patient”. Doctors give orders. Patients follow them…

Damnit Jim!
Dammit Jim!

Also, identifying internally as a patient speaks to a concept of being broken – perhaps even helpless. And it may even carry the message of that’s all you are – sick. Again, I’m not saying anyone necessarily means this, I’m just saying this message (or something similar) may be tagging along for the ride in your head. Words have histories and associations. I can’t think of many positive associations with the label “patient”, can you?

So, be a patient while you’re visiting a doctor or in the hospital. But be more than that too. Be a person first, and be all of you. Be a person in search of help and who deserves honest answers. Be a person who is in charge of your own life and your own body. And remember your life is about WAY more than your illness(es) and treatment(s). Trying to get healthy and well is a means to an end – the end being living your life in concert with your priorities and values, and creating a future worth loving and living, yes?   ~Z

For the etiology of the word and it’s usage, check out