Discussion Questions for Victoria Sweet: Medicine with a Soul

Listen to the conversation between Kate and Victoria, here. 

1. Victoria Sweet experienced the painful side of healthcare when her father was wrongfully, and demoralizingly, admitted to the hospital. What side of healthcare have you most often experienced?

2.What patients need from doctors is, above all else, a personal relationship, says Victoria. She calls this type of care slow medicine and contrasts it with the fast medicine of quick fixes. Have you ever enjoyed such a relationship with a medical doctor, nurse, technician, etc.? What did they do that made all the difference to you? Draw on your five senses to describe it.

3. Fast medicine may be concerned with the moment of crisis but slow medicine is concerned with what came before and what comes after, such as what’s getting in the way of getting better. How could this focus change your quality of care? How could this focus change your quality of life?

4. The body wants to heal, as Victoria puts it so eloquently. In this way, she says, it resembles a plant that conjures expectations of health and wholeness rather than a machine that’s expected to deteriorate and break down. What does thinking of your body as more plant than parts inspire in you?

5. Victoria thinks it’s dangerous to treat healthcare like a thing we can consume. Kate agrees and describes how “bio-capitalism” made her feel totally commodified as a patient. What has it felt like for you to move in the healthcare system? What language has helped you to better understand it—and its possibilities?

6. Kate admits to having spent “a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out how people keep caring inside professions that are emotionally painful.” What have you figured? What practices or rituals or liturgies do you think are crucial to helping caregivers live and see wholeheartedly?

7. Victoria calls for a return to craft in which medical professionals can experience pride in their work and the desire to learn. What do you think of as your craft? How do you return to it when you’re feeling lost, tired, or burned out—and especially by the people part?

8. Victoria says she always identifies more with patients, rather than doctors, because she knows that one day she’ll become one and won’t be able to manage the crap out of it. Think of one of your caregiving roles. Who do you identify more with: the person you care for or the other people, like you, doing the care? What could a change of perspective change in you?

9. Kate describes a class in which doctors are trained by drawing bodies. In other words, in order to really learn the art of medicine, they have to learn to reengage with the beauty and particularity of people. What practices help you to engage with the beautiful and particular bodies in your life?

10. Kate ends the podcast by blessing people who practice medicine, who can be both mechanics and gardeners, who can see both solutions and processes, who can pause long enough to see the person before them. “It’s a miracle,” she says. How can you participate in the miracle of a pause today?

Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate & Victoria’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?

Discussion Questions written by author, editor, and facilitator Erin S. Lane.

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