Rhetoric, a term often thrown around by students in the hallways of college English departments, offers much more to society than people may realize. In terms of public health, personal healthcare, and health/medicine in general, rhetoric is crucial way for society to develop and determine the personal notion of the good life; the true ideal state of health and well-being. Because of rhetoric both non-verbal and verbal, we as communities are able to pinpoint illness, identify resources, cure society, prevent disasters, and build a standard of quality in terms of health; these acts in turn define ‘healthy’ and ‘well-being’.
In the hallways of the hospitals, clung to the walls, mounted on the nurses, doctors, and medical students, there is a culture. It has no boundaries and abides to no one. Certain requirements must be met for the culture to exist; and it can live in a wide range of places; from developing counties to five star hospitals in upstate New York; there is no stopping the sophistication once it has begun. Inside this culture there is a rhetoric that exists, the way medical professionals approach work and communicate with both their colleagues and patients. Often this healthcare network of people compare patients to industrialized objects; this metaphor has both advantages and disadvantages, but in the end is a more dangerous than safe approach.
In medical school it is often an advantage for students to approach their patients as computers. This methodology allows the professional to focus on locating the ‘problem’ or disease within the human’s body without getting emotionally involved with their love lives and work situations, but in turn this approach really dehumanizes the patient. When people are compared and referred to by others with ‘more authority’ than themselves as merely objects, it is easy for them to feel concerned that their own personal attentions do not matter, or that they are not special and that their personal needs and interests are just like everyone else’s. This kind of mentality from communities can lead to a lack of trust among healthcare providers and this possibly could lead to the crumbling of the infrastructure of the public’s health.
A lot of doctors and medical professionals act like the oil industries and treat consumers like cars. Perhaps the average person would consider being called a ‘classic’ or ‘fast’, ‘slick’, and ‘legendary’ as a compliment, but in a way referring to a person as a car implies they are mindless, and incapable of providing maintenance to themselves. Healthcare providers know that patients will always come back for more ‘care’, the same way people always return to fill their gas tanks. This could be a good way to look at the industry, needs are identified and services are then provided, but often these healthcare companies take advantage of this metaphor and will charge big bucks for very inexpensive necessities that have the potential to help people meet their basic needs, and eventually create a overall healthier society.
Rudolf Virchow a famous pathologist, writer, politician, and German doctor said it best when he said, “The improvement of medicine may eventually prolong human life, but the improvement of social conditions can achieve this result more rapidly and more successfully.” The point to take from this quote is that social aspects of healthcare are more important and powerful in some ways than medicine itself. One aspect to this social property is absolutely rhetorics. Communication within the healthcare system needs to be more humane and compassionate. By eliminating the metaphors between patients and industrialized objects, healthcare can come closer to reaching a state of maxim general welfare.