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Inside the Respiratory Tent

Inside the Respiratory Tent

Spring comes slowly to New England. When I leave the house in the mornings at the end of April, I pull my fleece jacket tighter around me on my way to the car. My preteen daughter’s dark eyes and solemn mouth watch from the second-floor window as I pull away.
In the “don and doff” station at the respiratory tent in the hospital parking lot, I put on a gown and gloves, then take one

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Put to the Test

Put to the Test

I’m a primary-care doctor in Washington state. I was recently confronted with a ticklish and painful situation.
Here are the facts and the sequence of events:
On a recent Wednesday morning, I saw a forty-five-year-old woman in my office for an earache. She told me that a member of her church had been diagnosed with coronavirus, and that many schools in the area were being closed because of possible exposure. Later that day I started

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Last Day

Last Day

It’s my job to empty a plastic bag
filled with meds both past and present
and read out loud the labels of those we stopped,
and explain why, and while we’re on why
why he needs oxygen at night, and the rescue inhaler.
Between pills it’s my job to ask in a generic way
about life outside the clinic? He takes out his phone
because his story needs a prop.
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A Flower in Winter

A Flower in Winter

It’s winter of 1993. A cold, snowy day. Windy. A blizzard. The phone rings.

I’m not on call for my patients today–except for one. Daisy has been in my care since the early 1970s, and given the risk that she may suffer a serious downturn, I’ve instructed her nursing home to call me whenever necessary.

This is that call. Daisy, my dear lady, the old artist, is dying.
Throughout her nine decades of

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Shock Treatment

I sat in the cold, sterile examination room, anxiously awaiting my new orthopedic doctor–the fourth in two months. I was losing hope of ever finding a doctor who would listen to me. The first three had suggested that my pain was all in my head
I want someone to take me seriously, I brooded. I don’t want to be brushed off as the stereotypical hysterical female. My pain is real, and I’m not crazy. I

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Exit Interview


Tamra Travers ~

“I’m graduating and leaving our clinic in June.”

Over and over again, in the months leading up to this transition, I break this news to my primary-care patients. I have developed many meaningful relationships with patients over my past three years of training as a family-medicine resident in a large, urban health center in Manhattan. But now it is time to leave and move on.

The fluorescent lights

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Beginner’s Mind

Jessica Stuart ~

I paced in the hallway outside of the patient’s room, going over my mental checklist of items to do during the history and physical examination. Bringing in a paper list was discouraged; we were meant to “flow” through the exam “naturally.”

I stuffed my hands into the pockets of the white coat I’d received three weeks earlier, during the White Coat Ceremony for first-year medical students. Feeling around the deep

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Eye-Opener

Daniel Lee ~

1. Bipolar disorder
2. History of postpartum psychosis
3. No custody of her children
4. In treatment for cocaine abuse
5. Regular smoker

I digest each of these facts on the computer screen in rapid succession, progressively cementing the picture of Renee Pryce, a twenty-eight-year-old woman in her final months of pregnancy.

I’m a first-year resident in a large urban county hospital. In the course of my training, I’ve

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laughter po prn

Slavena Salve Nissan ~

if you happened to pass by room 2
in a medical practice somewhere uptown
some time in the spring
you would’ve heard
laughter
a medical student and her patient
giggling like toddlers
right in the middle of the cranial nerve exam
what a thing to hear

if only i could write that prescription
laughter po prn
no copay required

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The Patient I Didn’t Want


Krithika Kavanoor ~

When I first met Ms. Ruiz, I was barely three months into my first year as a family-medicine resident. I was working harder than I’d ever worked before, and continually facing new challenges. I knew that I was learning, and so I persevered, but opportunities for self-doubt were abundant.

Maybe that was why Ms. Ruiz made such a big impression on me.

A middle-aged woman with a small

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The Man Who Handed Me His Poop


Allie Gips ~

In broken English, against the backdrop of the emergency department’s chaos and clatter, Mr. Simon relayed his story: unintentional weight loss, gradually yellowing skin, weeks of constipation. He punctuated his list of devastating symptoms with laughter–exaggerated but genuine guffaws.

Over the next few days, as the medical student responsible for his care, I was also responsible for handing him piece after piece of bad news. An obstructing gallstone in

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Me Too


Frozan Walyzada ~

It’s late on a Friday afternoon in the outpatient clinic where I’m a third-year psychiatry resident. I’m wrapping up my appointment with Jane, a thirty-five-year-old woman with a mild intellectual disability who comes every month to refill her antidepressant prescription.

“Have you been watching the court case on TV?” she whispers.

I stop what I’m doing and look at her.

“The case with the judge and

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