Heard on the floors #1

During my surgery rotation, I spent one day on call with the trauma surgery team. This day happened to be on a weekend, so I rounded with the team in the morning, then hung around in the trauma bay for the next 24-ish hours. Since I had been assigned to the surgical oncology team for the month, I didn’t know any of the trauma patients, and the morning updates meant little to me. I did notice, though, that our team, about 12 people deep, lingered at one of the rooms for a few minutes longer than the others. The patient in that room had been left paraplegic from a car accident. When we all left the room, the attending turned to the medical students and asked us, “Why is it so important that we see this patient every morning- possibly more than any other patient on the floor?”

Med Student 1: “Because of his condition, we need to check for sacral ulcers every day?”

Attending: “No. Next”

Med Student 2: “We need to observe if he’s regaining any mobility in his limbs?”

Attending: “Nope. Next”

Me (Med Student 3): “Honestly, I know nothing about this patient. Sorry.”

Attending (rolls eyes at my stupidity): “Ok. Residents, tell them why it’s so important.”

Resident: “Because the patient has no one else.”

Attending: “Exactly.”

The doctor went on to explain that this patient had no friends or family who had visited in the three weeks that he was on the unit. Moreover, the patient had a history of depression, and was generally hopeless about his situation. So the attending surgeon made sure that no matter what he was doing, or how busy he was, he’d find a couple minutes every day to check in on this patient, “because what you’ll learn, students, is that 90% of the time, a patient will remember that you cared about them, and that you showed that care every day. They won’t remember the fact that you fixed their wounds and changed their medicines. They’ll remember that you treated them as people.”

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Filed under Day in the Life, Education, Ethics, Heard on the Floors, Hidden curriculum, Humanism

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