fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

Search
Close this search box.

fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

Search
Close this search box.
  1. Home
  2. /
  3. doctor-patient communication

Tag: doctor-patient communication

Bella’s Not a Girl Anymore

For more than thirty years, I’ve practiced general pediatrics and adolescent medicine with a private group practice in New Rochelle, just north of New York City.

Today I saw an adolescent girl for a checkup. Before this, I had seen her for a sick visit or two, but I didn’t know her all that well. She was accompanied by her father, whom I was meeting for the first time.

I started the checkup, as I always do, by asking if they had any

Read More »

Truth in Translation

Editor’s Note: This piece tied for first place in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

I learned from my grandfather how to lie to doctors the same way that baby birds learn chirping: by mimicry.

“All healed,” I would translate for my grandfather at appointments. “I used to smoke, but not anymore.” “The pain is very faint.”

A good apprentice, I knew that he was lying, and I translated it anyway. I was eight years

Read More »

An Exception to the Rule

“I usually talk through the procedure as I go,” I say, pulling on a pair of blue nitrile gloves. “So you aren’t surprised by anything, so you know when to expect a sensation.”

The patient is lying on the table, eyes fixed upwards. One of the ceiling panels is illuminated with the green leafy branches of a tree—an image meant to calm and soothe, though I doubt it’s doing much for this woman.

“Or I

Read More »

Unmasking the Problem

In the spring of 2021, as a third-year medical student in the midst of the pandemic, I worked on a research thesis while continuing to build my clinical skills. Every other week, I would visit the endocrinology clinic and see patients with my research mentor.

It was a day like any other at the clinic. Wearing the usual blue surgical face mask, I knocked on the exam-room door, and asked permission to enter. After sanitizing my hands, I began my introductory spiel while heading to

Read More »

Why Isn’t He Listening?

I was in my third year of medical school, partway through my psychiatry rotation.

“You’re ready for your first mental-capacity consult,” my attending said. I felt excited at being deemed ready to administer this evaluation, which is used to determine whether a patient has the ability to make decisions about their own care.

“The medicine team is confused about this one,” my attending continued. “He’s clinically improving from his COVID infection, but he wants to

Read More »

Microcalcifications

A cluster, I say,
so small – see? I can cover it
with the tip of my finger. Tiny little
calcifications. I show
you the mammogram.

Read More »

A Doctor’s Visit

My new doctor enters the examining room where I have been waiting for him, seated on a rumpled paper sheet at the edge of a brown leather lounge chair. Behind the doctor’s blue mask, he is wearing a furrowed brow of worry.

Read More »

Something Stronger

you said he likes it dark in the morning. every morning
he made black coffee by the light through the window over the sink
well anyway he used to. well anyway that’s why it’s so dark in here beg your pardon
the monitor beeped and i ate my yawn and said no problem almost my lunchtime anyway
you laughed and i laughed but he did not see the joke
i’d

Read More »

Final Appeal

“He basically killed me,” Sam said flatly, sitting my office. “I don’t want to talk to him.”

I nodded sadly with understanding as his on-demand oxygen hissed away each moment, like the ticking of a clock. Why would a patient want to speak to a doctor who’d missed his diagnosis? Why should he?

Read More »

Saying the D-Word

It was late in the evening, and I was ready to start my night shift as an intern in the intensive-care unit. I sought out my fellow intern, who was finishing his shift, so that we could perform signout–the ritual of passing the patients’ information from one clinician to the next.
“Mrs. Klein in Bed 15 might go,” he whispered.
“Go? Go where?” I asked. “It’s 10 o’clock at night.”
“I mean she might go

Read More »
Back Pain

Back Pain

A 77-year-old woman presents with back pain.
No trauma. No radiation. No red flags.
ROS* otherwise surprisingly negative.
Her exam is unremarkable, actually pretty darn good.
FROM, negative SLR, full distal strength, sensation and DTRs.*
After the usual cautions I reassure her,
prescribe activity, no meds and the tincture of time.
She is fine with that, appreciative and pleasant.
Then she says, “Should I

Read More »
Greetings and Salutations

Greetings and Salutations

I have seen tribesmen in the West African country of Mali meet each other on a narrow dirt path and stop to spend several minutes chanting highly scripted greetings. When they part, shortly afterwards, there is an equally elaborate farewell.

As a psychiatrist and medical educator, I’ve seen my colleagues carrying out a parallel ritual: Two doctors hurriedly passing each other in a hospital hallway and cheerily but tersely saying, “How are you?”–neither

Read More »
Scroll to Top