URL of this page: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/podcast/transcript022916.html

To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Addressing suffering: 02/29/2016

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health — a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM — that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

An illuminating perspective recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association suggests new ways for physicians to address patient suffering.

The perspective's two authors define suffering as (and we quote): 'severe distress that threatens the integrity of the person' (end of quote). The authors continue that suffering does not fit neatly within current biomedical paradigms and occurs in many clinical contexts, not just at the end of life.

The authors emphasize that diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions are only one part of addressing patient suffering. From 69 published articles in the medical literature, the authors synthesize and propose two new approaches that they call 'turning toward' and 'refocusing and reclaiming' respectively.

The perspective's authors identify 'turning toward' (and we quote) as: 'recognizing suffering, becoming curious about the patient's experience, and intentionally becoming more present and engaged' (end of quote). The authors, who are medical faculty at the University of Rochester and the University of Washington, add (and we quote): 'turning toward is about (physicians) being authentic, emotionally available, and engaged' (end of quote).

The authors identify 'refocusing and reclaiming' as (and we quote) 'making sense of and learning from an illness experience, feeling a sense of spirituality, connection, transcendence and healing' (end of quote). The authors explain (and we quote): 'refocusing and reclaiming is a shared project. Listening deeply, recognizing ambiguity, incompleteness, and contradictions, physicians can gently challenge patients' self-perceptions and nudge patients toward considering alternative views' (end of quote).

The perspective's authors add (and we quote): 'Physicians can honor patients' wishes to be generative and move from feeling victimized by illness to feeling enabled to adopt and thrive despite adversity' (end of quote).

The authors conclude (and we quote): 'For physicians to address suffering explicitly and routinely use these approaches would be a radical departure from the way medicine is practiced now' (end of quote).

For patients and non-physicians, the authors' sensible suggestions beg the question why their ideas are a radical departure from contemporary practice? Unfortunately the latter topic is beyond the scope of the perspective. On the other hand, the authors candid and humane approach are both a refreshing admission as well as a call to action.

Meanwhile, some helpful information about taking charge of your health (from the American Academy of Family Physicians) is available in the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's coping with chronic illness health topic page.

A well-written primer about how to cope with a chronic illness diagnosis (from the American Psychological Association) also is available in the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's coping with chronic illness health topic page.

The American Psychological Association additionally explains how to assist a friend or loved one suffering from a chronic illness within the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's coping with chronic illness health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's coping with chronic illness health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about coping with chronic illness as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's coping with chronic illness health topic page, please type 'coping with chronic illness' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'coping with chronic illness (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also has health topic pages devoted to chronic pain as well as living with cancer and HIV/AIDS.

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A written transcript of recent podcasts is available by typing 'To your health' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page.

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

Please join us here next week and here's to your health!