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Toni Talks about PT Today

Sometimes It's Hard to Feel Sorry for Patients

Published June 18, 2014 5:02 PM by Toni Patt

Last weekend I was describing a difficult patient I had worked with earlier in the month. It was someone with several chronic and out-of-control problems, obesity and medical noncompliance. I summarized my statement with, "I don't feel sorry for him. He created his situation."

I was immediately taken to task by someone who overheard some of what I said. I was told I shouldn't be working at that facility, much less in the profession if I don't feel sorry for my patients. This was someone who never works directly with patient care. She also only eavesdropped on part of the conversation because the statement made more sense in its entirety.

My eavesdropper apparently has equated good, quality care with feeling sorry for a patient. I don't feel very sorry for people who bring it upon themselves by neglecting diets, skipping medicines and becoming obese. That doesn't mean I won't provide the best care I can for them. Nor does it mean I don't want them to improve. I don't have to feel sorry for you to treat you to the best of my ability.

The sad truth is much of what we do involves working with people who don't want to do therapy. Or who don't want to get better. Or who don't want to take responsibility for anything. They would rather have a PT lay hands on and heal them. Once they leave the facility, it's only a matter time before they return with exactly the same diagnosis and deficits.

One such patient was an obese gentleman who came to us with an infection and chronic back pain. He didn't want to walk because it was painful. He couldn't move enough to make exercises effective. The only thing that was going to significantly help his pain was weight loss. He didn't think weight loss would work because he'd always been big-boned. That was not someone who was easy to help.

People don't always make the best choices. Just because I don't feel sorry for you for making bad choices doesn't mean I won't help you try to get better.

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