Overheard

Today, on the campus shuttle:

“I don’t understand the difference between moderate and severe heart failure. If the heart is failing, it’s like a machine and it just fails, right? Oh, so you have it? Do you still have hope? Don’t worry, they’ll beat it out of you. It might take a few years, but they’ll beat it out of you. Then you’ll be like me, going home, sitting on the couch every single night, and having a beer. Yeah, they’ll beat it out of you.”

I was speechless. Is this how the medical profession is viewed from most patients’ point of view?! In class we’ve started organ systems for this block, and have had cardiac and pulmonary path/pharm. We’ve learned a lot about heart failure, its physical exam steps, treatments, and the like, in addition to taking on a lot of new topics in our standardized patients like how to take a sexual health history, delivering bad news, domestic violence counseling, assessing suicidality, dealing with difficult patients, and other complex communication skills. I have really enjoyed this labs so far this year–the more difficult, the better, since third year is rapidly approaching.

I really wanted to help this person on the shuttle. We don’t get to see the day-to-day lives of our patients. We can learn all we can about congestive heart failure, but we can still miss the person behind the diagnosis. This is why humanism in medicine is so important to me. What would I have done if this person was my patient and showed up in my exam room? This person is clearly not happy with their care, or level of communication with their physician.

This gives me a lot to think about… especially now as I go back to studying cardiac pharm.

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