As I watched Escape Fire I was struck by the enormity of the damage that exists in the American health care system. I felt like the section header “Good People, Bad System” could have applied to every aspect of the problem the documentary covered, where the good people are both patients and health care providers. I felt as bad for providers like Dr. Martin as I did for the patients like the veteran who nearly overdosed on the flight back to the States. While the documentary definitely used emotion to appeal to the viewer, the emotional appeal was dwarfed by the sheer amount of hard data, clinical evidence, logical reasoning, and analysis.
The points that seem most pertinent to the nurse are those ideas about disease prevention versus disease intervention; ideas about an holistic approach to care, including the incorporation of Eastern practices such as mind-body yoga, meditation, and acupuncture; the importance of lifestyle choices and changes; and the importance of patient education. Those health care professionals who seemed to be advocating for change and enacting change – like Dr. Ornish and his colleagues – focused on the ideas of patient-centered care, patient education, and patient empowerment. And though it wasn’t said explicitly, the countered the idea of treating the disease; the focus was on treating the patient as a whole person and not a set of symptoms.

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This documentary has had a profound impact on my understanding and intentions as a nurse advocate. Before watching it, I was probably guilty of paying lip service to prevention, as one of the doctors stated about the health care system. Now I have a deeper appreciation for the importance of my role as an advocate, both in terms of the patient and in terms of my ability to influence policy and foster systemic change. If I truly want to care for and support my patients, I have to focus on educating and empowering them, emphasizing the effectiveness and benefits (including in terms of cost) of ‘low-tech’ medical solutions like lifestyle changes.