Appreciating the lives of others

Just a short note today as I'm tight on time, but I wanted to share this.  One of my roles at UWO is to teach a senior-year advanced pain elective course for the MPT program.  The final assignment in that course is to hand in a collection of personal reflections that the students have maintained over the course of the previous weeks.  The class ended last week, and I am now reviewing the reflective diaries.  I love doing this, it's one of the few times I genuinely enjoy marking things (I usually prefer the teaching to the marking).

During the very first class of the course I make the comment that, to me, teaching pain is a bit ridiculous when you consider the subjectivity of it.  I can describe my own perceptions, but those will not likely be the same as anyone else's.  Almost verbatim, I say 'I can tell you what I know about pain, but you will only get a small part of the story as I have only lived 1 life.  There are 24 other lives sitting around this table, and each of you have your own experiences with pain.  By sharing, we will all develop a greater appreciation for the phenomenon of pain'.  It's only one thing I say, and it's probably not very profound, but interestingly this year, a number of the students keyed in on that phrase in their first reflective entry for that week.  I think the idea that an instructor comes into a class and says right up front, essentially, 'I don't have all the answers, and I'm counting on the experiences of each of you to fill things in for the rest of us' might be refreshing for them.  But I wanted to share this because I think it is important to remind ourselves every now and then that our perceptions on what pain is, and what should be painful or not painful, are built on our own previous experiences, which are bound to be different (in some cases very different) from our patients' experiences.  This is kind of the crux of Gifford's "Mature Organism Model" of pain, but sometimes easy to forget.