Finding Greatness in his Profession – One Patient at a Time

One of the first things Nick Fustino, MD, said to us was, “The first time I heard the term ‘patient satisfaction,’ I thought wait a minute…I have to cure cancer and make patients happy while I do it?” Is there a physician in the room that hasn’t wanted to say something similar after a long clinic day?

Well, we just had to know more, so we asked Dr. Fustino to sit down with us to better understand how he went from thinking about making his patients happy to becoming a champion for improving his patient’s experience. This isn’t just another story of going from good to great, it’s about the discovery and connection of what matters most to him and his patients.

Watch the story….

A little chat with Nick Fustino, MD…

In the film, you draw an interesting connection between your own satisfaction and how well you connect with patients. What would you like your physician colleagues to take away from this?

Dr. Fustino: For physicians who are primarily clinical, I believe one of the primary reasons we choose this career path is because we enjoy the physician-patient dynamic, and we believe that connecting with patients is one of our strengths. Some of my best days are when I know that I “click” with every patient or family during an encounter. Even when having to deliver bad news, as in a “new diagnosis talk”, I get an incredible amount of satisfaction when I execute this well. And when there is evidence (a comment by a patient, a complimentary letter received, favorable patient satisfaction scores, etc.) outside of my own perception, this only further enhances my job satisfaction and fosters a more positive attitude.

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One might say, that you’ve evolved from a “reluctant physician scientist,” to a physician pioneering the patient experience. What has your focus on the “human side of medicine” taught you?

Dr. Fustino: In the field of pediatric hematology-oncology, it can be very easy to become immersed in the science, which can be powerful, elegant, and mesmerizing. We have a unique challenge in our field where we need to continually balance this with human connection, and artistically walk this line with pediatric patients and their parents. I have learned that an improved “patient experience” is merely the end result of emotional connection, skillful communication, and genuine interactions with patients.

You brought up this idea of working towards becoming a “master clinician,” and the risk of becoming complacent. What are key attributes of the “master clinicians” you know?

Dr. Fustino: I have been very fortunate and honored to have observed master clinicians at every level of my training. A master clinician, in my mind, exercises sound judgement, embraces logic and reasoning when approaching clinical dilemmas, strives to maintain objectivity, and makes decisions that are ethically just. A master clinician is able to remain compassionate and calm regardless of the circumstances and must be a superb communicator above all else. Lastly, a master of any profession must be passionate about what they do and possess a desire to become better at their craft.

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