One of these opportunities occurred last year in February. I did not write about it at time as I did not want to be seen as blowing my own trumpet but due to the increasing number of CRPS patients I read about having bad experiences with doctors who are not educated in CRPS and often lacking in empathy I have decide to write about last year’s experience as a patient pain ambassador at the Faculty of Pain Medicine at ANZCA (Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists) in Melbourne.
Thanks to my doctors’ faith in me to not only turn up but give it my best shot I found myself sitting in front of a room full of doctors who were attending a weekend clinical skills training session, a preliminary to commencing 2 years training to become pain management specialists.
I had 2 anxieties, firstly ‘what if I went into a massive flare and could not think?’, secondly ‘what if I was so nervous I could not speak and froze?’ Fortunately neither of these things happened and I had no trouble finding my voice!
So what was discussed? Empathy featured strongly and I had read about this topic following a link sent to me by my doctors. When asked if I had any thoughts about empathy I said I believed it was something that you felt deeply inside with the heart and also that it was something you could run out of. The course incorporated a section that covered the need for doctors to prevent burn out and how to look after themselves.
I was also able to talk about my bad experiences from a bullying doctor and my vulnerability at the time; how in order to be taken seriously by doctors in the past I had learnt to hide my emotions so I would not be judged as an ‘hysterical woman’ and my pain would be believed. Then through my art that was projected onto a large screen I was able to illustrate what my shooting pains felt like to me and the deep physical impact of these pains when severe. Through some of my paintings and drawings I was able to show how I visualise my world, how in my own personal universe severe pain is ever-present, lurking somewhere ready to strike at any moment.
The end of the session was all a bit a blur, my husband/carer John and I were invited to share a buffet lunch, my doctors seemed pleased with the discussion and I was thanked by many of those in the audience. Upon reflection I believe that from what I read in the weekend curriculum for the course that the general direction of the training is going to produce more empathetic and knowledgeable doctors who recognise the importance of strong doctor patient relationships. We can only hope this is the case and that more of these graduates make their way into the public system to help those who have no choice.