Sometimes health education comes outside the textbook or the hours required in medical school. On the plane this week I tripped on an extension class–a movie.
A movie every doctor, daughter, son, mother, father, dog owner, and caregiver should see. I’ve never recommended a movie here before but this one I consider a must-see. It’s R rated, just like health care. And parenting.

Beginners

There is a lesson every few minutes. Here’s 8 I saw:

  1. Medication is incredible. 70 years ago yesterday patients started to survive from previously incurable illnesses by using penicillin. When you’re giving a father or a mother or a daughter or a partner medicine, put it in a beautiful cup. It may improve the experience. Half way through the film, you can see examples. Providing reminders and offering mediations can sometimes be beautiful.
  2. When you’re a doctor, remember that your tone and every single word you chose can have lasting power. Not always (thank goodness) but sometimes. Listen to the doctor provide the diagnosis (even in the trailer below) and pause on the power of that particular metaphor. Metaphors and images can serve your patients beautifully. Or haunt them, too. I remembered listening to a voicemail from a doctor in 2004 over and over again. I wanted to hear the good news but all I kept hearing was the truth: the bad news. I listened to that doctor’s voice again and again. Chose your words carefully as best you can when providing news.
  3. Sorrow and mindlfulness in grief and anticipation of loss can create great meaning. Presence in our reality is a gift for being human. I can’t remember who said this to me recently, but I keep thinking about it: being a caregiver to a suffering or hurting individual may be the most meaningful experiences you have while living. Beginners reminds us we need no medical training to nurture and relieve suffering.
  4. Pets. Pets offer care and constancy amidst the stormy seas of life. Dogs offer remarkable companionship. We need to remember that and although pets are sometimes allowed into and around hospitals for therapy, the movie is a stark and bright-light example of how exceptionally therapeutic a pet can be. Welcome pets into clinics and homes that share sickness. Find a way, world. We got a few men to the moon, and plenty of women, teachers, and courageous humans into space. We can surely bring comfort to those of us who suffer while enduring health care. Pets can help.
  5. Maybe the most important lesson for me: the bond between a child (of any age) and a parent is unlike any other. Make no mistake: no matter how painful, complex, or hurtful the relationship you have with your parent or your child, that bond is like nothing else on earth. Episodes throughout the whole movie reminded me of this truth again and again.
  6. We should have more parties at the hospital with our patients. If I ran a hospital (Is there a CEO reading?) I would hire a worthy party planner and do this justice. Celebrate wellness (even if it only lasts for a few minutes or hours). When someone you know is ill and out of ideas for how you can help, go to the grocery store and buy party hats and streamers. Raise up your voice and celebrate life on earth. Party when those who ache may need it most.
  7. Life is short and very weird. Make sure the weird part is true. Take risks when you can. Worry less and work hard to make sure that happens. Figure out a way to trust the world, even online. Go meet a new neighbor today, tell them you don’t want to meet them only when the blizzard comes or after the earthquake arrives. Extend your hand and begin a new relationship. The movie will drive this home for you.
  8. A photo of a hand with daisies can remind us how complex parenthood really is. In the final 1/2 hour of the film, we see a photo of a hand with daisies (no spoiler here) while we’re reminded what we’re trying to provide for our children: “Here’s simple and happy. That’s what I meant to give you.”

Don’t take my word for it– go watch it yourself. Tell me how it will help you with sickness or doctoring or care giving or healing.