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Physician Health & Well-Being: Physician’s Prayer

Physician Health & Well-Being: Physician’s Prayer
By John Patterson, MD, MSPH, FAAFP, ABIHM
Founding co-chair LMS Physician Wellness Program

As I sit at my desk, I am surrounded by framed diplomas, certificates and gifts from patients, colleagues, and staff. Among them are two anonymous Physician’s Prayers. Reading them feels like good medicine.
     Health professionals are struggling under the weight of the viral pandemic. We ourselves are suffering, even drowning, as we battle our society’s epidemics of loneliness, depression, anxiety, chronic disease, substance abuse, suicide, domestic violence and crimes of hate and race. Our own children are afraid and at risk as firearm-related injuries (suicide, homicide, unintentional, and undetermined) have become the leading cause of death in children and teens.
     The stress, burnout and moral injury among physicians is unprecedented. As we serve our patients and our society, we are learning the importance of helping each other. We are mending our own wounds through the healing power of community, following our own lifestyle prescriptions and being inspired by our patients’ stories. Relationships are a foundation of good medicine- relationships with our patients, staff, colleagues, family, friends, pets, nature- and our relationships with ourselves and a power greater than ourselves.
     As you read these two Physician’s Prayers, here are some suggestions for maximum benefit-
Turn off the phone. Arrange for a few minutes of privacy. Have pen and paper handy. Sit comfortably. Close the eyes. Relax the body. Slow down mentally. Take your foot off the accelerator and step on the brake. Feel the breath of life moving in and out- all by itself. Be here in this place. Be here in this moment. Open your heart to itself. Read slowly. Pause often. Let the words speak to you. Connect to your reason for becoming a physician. Afterwards, sit briefly with eyes closed and your attention on your heart. You might gain insight into your life situation by writing about thoughts and emotions that arise- whether pleasant or unpleasant. Consider writing down any commitment you vow to make to a regular practice of connecting to yourself, your heart and a higher power. Even 5 minutes of daily self-reflection and heart-centeredness can change your life- even save your life.

Peace…May we do no harm

Physician’s Prayer #1

Give to my hand the healing touch
     The throb of pain to still.
Grant that mine ears be swift to hear
     The cry of those in pain.
Give to my tongue the words that bring
     Comfort and strength again.
Fill Thou my heart with tenderness,
     My brain with wisdom true.
And when in weariness I sink,
     Strengthen Thou me anew.
So in Thy footsteps may I tread
     Strong in Thy strength always.
So may I do Thy blessed work
     And praise Thee day by day
                              – Anonymous

Physician’s Prayer #2

Thank you O Lord, for the privilege of being a doctor;
     for letting me serve as your instrument
     in ministering to the sick and afflicted.
May I always treat with reverence
     the human life which you have brought into being.
Keep me constantly alert to see that the sacred right to live
     is never violated for even the least individual.
Deepen my love for people so that I will always give myself gladly
     and generously to those stricken with illness and suffering.
Help me to listen patiently, diagnose carefully,
     prescribe conscientiously and follow through faithfully.
Teach me to blend gentleness with skill
     to be a doctor with a heart as well as a head.
                              – Anonymous

Dr. Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is certified in family medicine, integrative holistic medicine, mind body medicine, mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga therapy and physician coaching. He teaches mindfulness for the UK Health and Wellness Program, Saybrook College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences (Pasadena) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington DC). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, serving health professionals, people with chronic conditions and the general public.