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Real Meaning At Christmas

slumsEvery day I go to work and spend time with suffering people. They come to me for help and for comfort. They open up to me with problems that they would not tell anyone else. They put trust in me — even if I am not able to fix their problems. I serve as a source of healing, but I also am a source of hope.

Christmas is a moving season for many of the same reasons. No, I am not talking about the giving of gifts or the time spent with family. I am not talking about traditions, church services, or singing carols. I am not even talking about what many see as thereal meaning of Christmas: Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men, and baby Jesus. The Christmas story most of us see in pictures or read about in story books is a far cry from the Biblical account. The story we see and hear is sanctified, clean, and safe.

Before I go on, I want to assure my readers that I am in no way trying to persuade them to become Christians. I am a Christian, but whether or not you believe the actual truth of the story, there is much to be learned from it. I find it terribly hard to see the real Christmas story here in a country where the season is filled with so much else — much of it very good. It is far easier to just be happy with family, friends, giving gifts, singing songs, and maybe even going to church, than it is to contemplate the Christmas story. I think the Christians in our culture have gotten way off base on this — much to our shame.

Christmas is not about prosperity and comfort. It is about help to the hopeless. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Distractible Mind*

When Doctors Make Mistakes: About Humanness And Perfection

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*

Top 10 Tips On How To Treat Your Patients

This is a guest post from Carolyn Thomas:

An Open Letter To All Hospital Staff

Dear hospital employees,

After a particularly bizarre experience undergoing a treadmill stress echocardiogram at your hospital recently, I decided to do something that I have never done before: I called the manager of the cardiology department to complain about her staff. (Incidentally, a recent opinion survey of international tourists found that Canadians were #1 in only one category: “Least likely to complain when things go wrong” — so you can appreciate that lodging an official complaint is a fairly big deal here!)

In my best PR fashion, I told the manager how distressing the appointment had been because of the behaviour of the two cardiac technicians in the room. It’s not so much that they were openly rude, but it was their insufferable lack of people skills that had pushed me over the edge. No introductions, no eye contact, no consideration of how awkward this test can be, no explanation of  the test procedures or even the flimsiest effort at polite conversation. To them, I was merely the 1:00 o’clock appointment, the obstacle between them and their next coffee break, just a piece of meat on a slab — but worse, an invisible piece of meat. Read more »

When I Really Felt Like A Doctor

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*

Better Health Bloggers Make “O” Magazine’s “Best Doctor’s Blogs” List

Check out this preview article (dated October 20, 2010) by Madonna Behen on Oprah’s “O” Magazine website entitled “4 Doctor’s Blogs to Read Now,” where two of the four doctors’ blogs listed are regular Better Health content contributors. They are family physician Lucy Hornstein, M.D., author of “Musings of a Dinosaur,” and internist, cardiologist, and cardiac electrophysiologist Wesby Fisher, M.D., author of “Dr. Wes.”

An excerpt:

You thought physicians were robotic and cold? A new epidemic of personal blogs written by docs might change your mind. These medical scribes are boldly posting their real feelings (and worst fears) on the web, for all the world to see. Their journals provide us patients with an informative and humanizing look behind the professional mask.

Congratulations to these great physician bloggers of ours for making up half of the list!

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