The best part of doctoring is its humanness. Machines can’t do it — not even Apple products.
But that’s the worst part, too. Since humans practice medicine, there will be “medical errors.” And when doctors err, people — not spreadsheets or profits — are hurt. That’s the rub. Like any endeavor, the greater the reward the greater the risk. Those cards were put on the table in medical school.
“Don’t want mistakes? Don’t do anything. Don’t make any decisions. Don’t do any procedures. Then, there will be no errors,” the grey-haired, Swiss-born cardiac surgeon counseled me many years ago after an imperfect ablation.
The headline was about a doctor’s error. It was a doozy. But for me, the story belies the headline. A Boston Globe reporter called a surgeon’s public admission of performing a wrong operation “an unusual display of openness.” I would call it something else: Breathtaking. Unprecedented. Courageous. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*
PalMD over at The White Coat Underground recently asked: “When did you really feel like a doctor?” Interesting question that I could answer in a number of ways.
While I didn’t know it at the time, I felt like a doctor around 4am during my first night on call. I was an intern on the hematology ward at Texas Children’s Hospital. I was fresh out of medical school, I had chosen a residency known for its mind-boggling volume, and the kids were really sick. I had hit a point where I simply couldn’t keep up with what was in front of me. I stole away into the 6th-floor stairwell in the Children’s Abercrombie building, put my face into my hands, and began to cry.
My first call night was a metaphor for my career. I had no idea at the time that the idea of simply keeping up would be a theme that would follow me through my training and into my day-to-day work.
While I can’t remember the last time I cried at the hospital, I continue to struggle with input. I work to keep up with inbound information and professional social dialog. How I handle information or how I appear to handle it defines me as a physician. Harnessing this attention crash through technology will represent a major defining moment for the next generation of physicians.
*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*
An excellent opinion piece by Sally Satel, M.D., a psychiatrist, appeared in the Wall Street Journal this morning about white coat ceremonies as ways to reinforce the humanistic qualities of medicine. The best part, however, was this perspective:
But the question of whether empathy can be taught—and, in particular, whether a white-coat ceremony is a good means for promoting that virtue—is a matter of some debate.
Judah Goldberg, a young doctor at Chilton Memorial Hospital in New Jersey raises an intriguing paradox. He asks how the white coat can bring doctors closer to the subjective experience of patients when, as an icon of the profession, it is meant to isolate and distinguish them from the lay community.
“To the extent that empathy can be taught through a ritual,” Dr. Goldberg told me, “a hospital gown, the common garb of human frailty, would be more fitting than a distancing white coat.”
I must say, the thought of everyone seeing each others’ posterior sides as they paraded across the stage at such a ceremony did make me smile. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*
I went to a patient’s funeral this past weekend. I generally don’t do that for people whose relationship I’ve built in the exam room. It’s a complex set of emotions, but invariably some family member will start telling others what a nice doctor I am and how much the person had liked me as a doctor. It’s awkward getting a eulogy (literally good words) spoken about me at someone else’s funeral. This patient I had known prior to them becoming my patient, and his wife had been very nice to us when we first moved here from up north.
But that’s not why I am writing this. As I was sitting in the service, the thought occurred to me that a patient’s funeral would be considered by many to be a failure for a doctor. Certainly there are times when that is the case — when the doctor could have intervened and didn’t, or intervened incorrectly, causing the person to die earlier than they could have. Every doctor has some moments where regrets over missed or incorrect diagnosis take their toll. We are imperfect humans, we have bad days, and we don’t always give our patients our best. We have limits. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*