By AOA Past President Norman E. Vinn, DO
How often do you really stop and think about the Osteopathic Pledge of Commitment? Have you recited it lately? It’s a cornerstone of our professional values, and a promise to our patients and to each other.
We recite it at major meetings. It’s printed in agenda books, business cards and our website. You’ve probably read it hundreds of times. We are aware of the Pledge, but are we living the Pledge?
Where Did the Pledge Come From?
Like all of you, your leaders honor the Pledge every day in our work. But many of our members don’t really know about the pledge’s history, meaning and impact. In 1998, AOA President Howard M. Levine, DO, launched the AOA’s Campaign for Osteopathic Unity. As you might gather from its name, it aimed to unify the osteopathic family. To help instill loyalty and commitment to the osteopathic medical profession as well as reaffirm a DO’s dedication to the profession’s tenets, the AOA established the Osteopathic Pledge of Commitment. Both the AOA Board of Trustees and House of Delegates approved the Pledge in 2003.
Living the Pledge
Ten years later, the Pledge continues to remind us what it means to be part of our profession, to share a culture. Over the next few months, we will focus on each line of this promise, sharing thoughts on what it signifies for the profession as well as some inspiring examples of how our members live each line of the Pledge.
As the first article in this series, let’s consider the first line of our Osteopathic Pledge of Commitment: “To provide compassionate, quality care to my patients.” We know that this is what DOs are all about. We take into account a number of factors impacting our patients’ health. We focus on treating the whole person, not just her or his symptoms. We spend time with our patients, giving them the compassionate care that is a DO’s hallmark. When we think of DO heroes like Sister Anne Brooks, running a community clinic in rural Mississippi, we see the archetype of compassionate, quality care.
Treating the Whole Patient
As a DO who makes house calls, this line deeply resonates on a personal level. More than 10 years ago, we founded Housecall Doctors Medical Group. Today, our team of physicians and midlevel practitioners makes about 2,600 house calls each month. We love providing this kind of medical care. First of all, we’re not rushing through our patient visits. We take our time examining them and listening to them or their caregivers as they provide details of what’s going on with their health. Secondly, the nature of our practice model means that we are invited into their homes. As soon as we step through the door, we are given the opportunity to see our patient as a whole, to see first-hand other factors that are affecting our patient’s health and her or his quality of life.
For example, a patient I will refer to as “Mrs. Jones” was returning frequently to the hospital. While she had known heart failure and diabetes, her issues did not seem serious enough to merit these hospitalizations. When we visited her home and went into the kitchen, we saw the potato chips, the jars of pickles, all of which were loaded with salt. When we went down the hallway and saw the throw rugs, we understood why she had had several ER visits for falls. We also knew she was forgetful and after checking her medication bottles, we could see she didn’t remember to take her meds. You know the rest of the story. Rather than working on medication adjustment, we focused on a safety evaluation and safety training. We ordered a front-wheel walker and grab rails in the bathroom, set up a medication reminder system, and worked with her family to have a caregiver come to her home every day to help with medication and ensure that the salty foods were not in the home. This is osteopathic medical care – understanding the whole patient and providing compassionate, caring and holistic solutions.
That’s what this line of our Pledge means to me. What about you? Are there examples of the kind of patient care you provide that reflect the meaning behind the words: to provide compassionate, quality care? You can share them with your osteopathic family by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below.
And on behalf of your DO family, thank you for living the Pledge.