Jan 16, 2012, 6:00 PM, Posted by Debra Toney
Debra A. Toney, PhD, RN, FAAN, is founder of TLC Health Care Services of Las Vegas, and the immediate past president of the National Black Nurses Association. She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program. Toney is the keynote speaker at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. lecture on Monday.
Today, on this national day of service, people across the country are honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by making a difference in their communities. They’re picking up trash, making meals at food banks, cleaning up parks and caring for the less fortunate. But this shouldn’t be a once a year occurrence; it is my dream that a sense of caring and greater purpose will someday be ingrained into our everyday lives. As a health care professional, I try to carry this calling with me every day.
Health care is becoming increasingly complex. Our population is aging and becoming more diverse. Patients come to us with multiple chronic diseases and a bag full of medications for refills, often not knowing why they are taking them. The waiting room is packed and everyone wants to be seen now. And the health professional is wondering how to get through the day.
All of this comes with a cost. Not a monetary cost but a human caring cost – the lack of touch, caring and compassion. We call patients by their disease; “the gallbladder in room 232” or “the COPDer in 476.” We order test, tests, and more tests to avoid lawsuits, a form of defensive medicine. Health care costs are out of control and millions of people are without health insurance. Access to quality health care is lacking. Provider salaries are on the decline.
These are the real challenges of health care today. Yet amidst these many challenges, we must not lose sight of patients, who literally put their lives in our hands. Patients look to us to provide them with quality health care. We must continue to provide personalized care and teach the next generation of health professionals how to do so.