As a survivor of massive trauma, Marcus Engel knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the stethoscope. Today, the professional speaker and author is an expert in communicating the patient’s perspective, advocating for increased humanity and compassion in clinical settings.
Massive Trauma Survivor, Professional Speaker, Author
Tell us a bit more about your “I’m Here” movement.
The I’m Here movement is a simple reminder to healthcare professionals to provide compassionate presence to patients and those who are suffering. Human presence is the greatest gift we can give to another human being, especially when another person is hurting. When we witness another person who is suffering, the words “I’m here” are the greatest comfort we can give.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted chronic pain patients and their caregivers?
The pandemic has kept patients from therapy, treatments, and appointments. Untreated pain tends to increase over time, and, often, the greatest treatment for chronic pain is when a provider just listens to patients. The simple acknowledgement of another’s suffering has been complicated by virtual appointments and lack of presence.
What is the importance of coming up with a self-care plan for pain management?
Over the last decade, we’ve discovered that simply giving out medicine is not enough to help ease pain. It’s important for patients and the families of patients to be aware of the many treatments for pain. Evidence shows that an effective treatment for pain is comfort. Comfort doesn’t just mean the absence of pain; it means that one’s suffering is witnessed and felt by another.
Why is compassionate communication in patient care essential, especially for those managing pain?
Living with chronic pain is extremely difficult. When a patient arrives to a doctor’s office to treat their chronic pain, an uncaring environment or curt communication may proverbially feel like adding salt to a wound. The opposite is also true. A listening ear, an open heart, and acknowledgement of a patient’s suffering has been shown to reduce pain.
In your experience, which technologies, tools, and resources have been the most effective in improving quality of life for people with chronic pain?
One of the most exciting revelations of the last couple of decades is the effectiveness of narrative medicine and storytelling. There are no adverse side effects, there is no cost, and it doesn’t take an extraordinary amount of time. Actively listening to a patient’s story provides the ability for that patient to differently frame their pain and suffering, to feel seen and heard and to know that another empathizes with their suffering.