Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

How Do You Measure Success In Medicine?

The staff was concerned that she came to the office without her interpreter.

How would we communicate? How would I assess her symptoms?

“Should we get a translator from the hospital?” they asked.

I knew this patient well. I had done battle with rogue circuits in her left atrium more than once. I could even remember the fractions of the fractionated potentials–the squiggles of the squiggly line. I could recall my body’s joyous sensations when burning that precarious ridge of heart muscle steadied her heart’s rhythm.

“Got it,” we say.

Or

“Did you see that…It’s gone.” It’s as if we give fractionated electrical signals monster status. Go away, you bad monster!

So with all this background knowledge, I reassured the staff that my non-verbal clinical observational skills might be sufficient.

And they were.

I entered the room to find a radiant woman that looked full of life. A good sign. Since we couldn’t converse, we looked–at each other.

With hopeful eyes, I beamed my thoughts to her: “Gosh dang it, I worked so hard in that thin-walled upper chamber of yours…please tell me your heart is good…pretty please.”

What happened next needed no translation.

She held out her arms, smiled and motioned me closer. Heart docs don’t hug that much, so it took me a nanosecond to comply. She held me firmly, and longer than one of those nominal cursory hugs. My chest felt her regular rhythm.

I knew the ablation had held.

As she said “thank you” in broken English, I saw the tear on her cheek.

I wanted to tell her how thankful I was for her, and her beautiful expression of thanks–one that needed no words.

I wanted to tell her that the second-most invested person in her procedure’s success was me. It matters, a whole lot.

And that this stuff matters so much lies at the core of why doctoring is such a great job.

    *This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*


    You may also like these posts

    Read comments »


    Comments are closed.

    Return to article »

    Latest Interviews

    IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

    It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

    Read more »

    How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

    I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

    Read more »

    See all interviews »

    Latest Cartoon

    See all cartoons »

    Latest Book Reviews

    Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

    I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

    Read more »

    The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

    When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

    Read more »

    Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

    I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

    Read more »

    See all book reviews »