Computers might be able to take over some of what a doctor does, but they sure can’t do this.
Last week, Reddit user mcharb13 posted a photo of a handwritten note from a doctor that he said has changed his life. It’s a condolence note that was sent to his father by an emergency room physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital who had treated his mother, he told the Huffington Post. His mother had breast cancer and died several hours after being taken to the ER.
In the note, the doctor explains that this is the first such note she’s written in 20 years of ER work (the name of the doctor was omitted from the photo, but Redditors seemed to think it was a female, based on the handwriting.)
“Our encounters are typically hurried and do not always allow for more personal interaction,” she wrote. “However, in your case, I felt a special connection to your wife, who was so engaging and cheerful in spite of her illness and trouble breathing.”
The note struck a chord with at least 2.1 million people and prompted more than 1,300 of them to leave comments. Many of the comments have come from people who have also lost parents, and many have come from physicians as well.
They don’t train us how to deal with the human element of our job very well. Most react by developing a deep callus over their hearts. Some of us are down-right evil in how jaded we’ve become. I’m sure other healthcare workers can testify. So, it is a true testament to your parents relationship for this to pierce beneath that callus. Whatever they were doing, apparently, they were doing it right. It sounds like you have a couple of great parents. Copy them.
I pray to God that when I make it as a trauma surgeon, I do not become desensitized to the sometimes inevitable loss of life of my fellow man or woman, nor desensitized to the joy of saving or helping to improve the quality of life of my patients.
It’s a reminder that, even in the digital age, bedside manner and compassion go a long way.
[Photo from Reddit user mcharb13]
For all of the negative comments directed at caregivers: Do you have any idea the patient load most doctors have? How many hours they spend taking care of their patients every day? Not 8-5 on weekdays, but including weekends, holidays, 2 a.m. calls when a patient requests to see them rather the on-call doc at hospitals? How much of their off time that they spend working, even if they're not getting paid for it? How about how much time they miss with their very OWN families? How many dance recitals, graduations, Christmas mornings they miss with their own loved ones because they made a commitment to care for others? I don't know a single doctor who is doing it for the money. For anyone to complain because a caregiver didn't write them a personal note, come to a funeral, etc. is pretty selfish. Maybe they should have been taking care of some of those social graces instead of caring for your loved one? Yeah, didn't think so.
I must tell you that while everyone is surprised that this note came from a doctor, I am ONLY surprised because they are so busy and their time with patients in the ED is hurried and centered on treatment, not emotions. However, doctors have gone through many years of intensive training and education to basically serve others, and so they do have compassion and caring. Also, things like this happen in the realm of nursing EVERY DAY. Nurses wear their hearts on their sleeves. Love your nurses, because they surely love you.
Most dr's Handwriting is fine! They write 'bad' you think? Wrong.!! What your seeing is Shorthand tied in with coding to prevent forgery and understanding. Its something they do at once- shorthand, latin,greek mainly in cursive. If it wasn't legible do you really think the pharmacy would tolerate it? HELL NO!
No you understand now don't you?! Its very hard to read or forge something you dont understand. This is how they catch forgers who will change the 10 to a 100 etc. Yet- the dr MAY have wrote 10 mg with some other scratch. What they REALLY wrote was the dose and drug in english numeric AND another UNREADABLE format like Shorthand,Greek etc.. Now you've learned something my friend.
Wonderful gesture. It reminds me of the opposite situation. My mother died and afterwards I wrote a letter of thanks to her doctor of eight years. I received nothing, not even a sympathy card from his office. Funny thing is that a couple years before, my mother had to put her dog down as it was so old. She was surprised and touched as was I when she received a card from the veterinarian expressing his sympathy.
when my husband died, the attending dr. was very comassionate towards me. and her words comforted me as she explained all the medical problems he had in terms i understood and spoke to me as a person not just another passer by. she was a great help to me and she also attended the memorial service an that was the 1st time i ever met her.
My daughter is a CNP and is an oncologist in the Melanoma Clinic at a large Midwest clinic. All of her patents are terminal and she strives to treat them to give them the longest and best life possible. I could never do her job. She has to deliver bad news to patients daily. She is a fine clinician and a wonderful person. Many of her patients reschedule their appointments if she is not there rather than see a physician. She regularly sends notes to the relatives of her patients that have died. She even traveled 75 miles once, to attend the funeral of a long time patient. I am so-o-s proud of her.
My father was in a car accident in 1997 and spent two weeks in the trauma center at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia. He passed away from his injuries. The doctors and nurses were so kind and we were especially impressed with the care of the chief trauma doctor, Dr. Gabe Oschner. He wrote a condolence letter to both my sister and me in response to the Thank you notes we sent him. I will always treasure that letter as proof of the compassion shown to my beloved father.
My amazing wife, Christine, died from cancer at the age of only 38. Her oncologist really became involved in our struggle and was much more than just a doctor to us. He also spoke at her funeral. This level of personal involvement must be very difficult for a physician, but meant so much to our family. We will never forget the true love and care of Dr. Jonathan whisenet.
my wife passed away in 2012 nurses at the hospital were there evey time she needed them and they cried the day she left there to come home for the final time week later got a card from them all signed it and expressed their feelings for her also the nurses when she was doing dialysis, sent cards and even one came to the house to see her for the final time will never forget that or them
My husband is a genetics doctor and also on the autism spectrum. He says many of his colleagues (doctors, scientists) are on the spectrum. He says it's a benefit and helps them devote their lives to research, treating patients, finding cures, dealing with dying people, etc.
I am NOT implying that all doctors and scientists are on the AU spectrum. Just pointing out that hubs sees a benefit to AU's being in the field. I read so many comments from doctors about how hard it is to deal with dying patients, and how they become desensitized. That has to be so difficult.
When either as a nurse, doctor, x-ray technician, laboratory technician, all the way down to the orderly who cleans the ER or hospital, you lose you empathy to your fellow man/woman, it is time to change your profession. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying you have to crawl into the fetal position every time a critical care patient comes in. However, it also is not a crime to feel sad or even have your eyes fill a bit when a passing occurs. That is what is called being HUMAN. God did not intend us to be non-feeling, non-empathetic blob of flesh. He intended us to be just the opposite. Many times I have cried in the ER. Many times, I have found a closet once the dust settled and I just stepped in, closed the door and let my emotions go. Frankly it was what kept me sane for 20 years+. When it is hot and heavy and the ER is the chaotic place it always will be, I can still remain calm, do the job I love and was born to do and at the end of the day or after a particularly difficult case I am not ashamed to shed a tear or two even if it is in front of fellow colleagues.
it's hard to believe that a doctor wrote that since i've never been able to read my doctor's writing on anything.
I've had to stamp my foot and hold my breath till I turned blue to get my doctor to stop saying that something was too complicated to explain to me. He finally learned that I also have a reasonably functioning brain and that I can comprehend things more sophisticated than American Idol or Spiderman.
Regardless of the authenticity, let's just believe for a brief moment in time that there are a few angels here on earth, and that the scrouge we know as cancer will be done someday very soon. To those in the fight, we are in this together, and we must never ever lose hope.
I'd bet money this is a hoax. When was the last time you saw anything written by a physician that was actually legible.
When my grandmother was dying of terminal brain cancer, with only weeks left to live, morphine was the only relief that could be given to her for the pain. Her jack ass of a doctor took her off of it - leaving her writhing and screaming in pain. My mom and aunts cornered this doctor in the hallway of the hospital and demanded to know the reasoning behind his decision. His answer? He didn't want her on such high doses of morphine since she would quickly become addicted to it. My aunt's head almost exploded off her body and she reminded him, quite loudly, that my grandmother was DYING and only had WEEKS to live at most. Who cared if she got addicted to the morphine, the one thing that could control her pain and make her comfortable. Needless to say, that doctor was removed from my grandmother's case, she was put back on morphine, and as able to spend her last few weeks of life comfortable and relatively pain free.
This looks like a censored 'Victory Mail' letter from World War II.
It is the fallacy of the HIPAA Act. Patients are led to believe that it was set up to 'protect their privacy' when in fact the purpose was/is the establishment of a National Database of Healthcare information.
If this was a personal note then Who exactly opened it and altered its contents?
This touches me personally. My 16 year old daughter passed away in November of 2011 after almost 5 months of hospitalization. For the first 11 1/2 weeks she was at Duke Childrens. She was then transferred to Boston Childrens and was there for 6 weeks. She then was transferred to the UVA PICU for a week and then went to inpatient physical rehab at Kluge in Charlottesville, VA. The night she passed away, I emailed the team at Boston, and her primary cardiologist at Duke. In the following days and weeks, I received about 15 or 20 condolance cards from the staff at Boston Childrens, who only knew Danielle for 6 weeks. I also received several very lovely cards from the UVA PICU. They only knew this girl for a week. Kluge sent several cards. They only knew her for 2 days. Now back to Duke. I got 3 emails. Danielle was a Duke patient for 6 1/2 years!!!!!!!!!!!! The entire 5th floor knew her very well, considering she was in and out of that hospital for 6 1/2 years. I have received nothing except those emails. The first 2 emails were from the nurse practioners of the surgeon. The 3rd came from the cardiologist, but it took him 2 weeks to write. I wish the in-patient staff at Duke Childrens would read this article. Maybe they could learn a little about compassion.
"It’s a reminder that, even in the digital age, bedside manner and compassion go along way." This is a beautiful story! I just wanted to add,that the statement I posted about bedside manner,is so so true., and is truly becoming obsolete. I have to be in doctors officers more than I'd like,because of kidney disease.I have been to so many speacilist and ER visits than I'd like to count.I am often alone,with my husband deployed ALOT,and it's very scary. So many times,the majority,sadly,I'm treated with such disrespect and ignorant to my own body body (I have studied so much on my disease I could proably tell doctors a thing or two on the subject haha)but in many instances the basic respect one gives another human IS so bad,it has caused me to leave(I know so much red tape has been put on doctors,and they are completely understaffed in our day in time),but for any doctor,caregiver,etc.. reading..BEDSIDE MANNER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING,ITS THE BEST MEDICINE YOU COULD GIVE!!!!
such communication is discouraged at all levels of hospital "leadership"....... generally.
such letters are used in court, ROUTINELY, as bits of evidence of "guilt".
this doctor used perfect prose to avoid the guilt pitfall..... a testimate to his communication skills.
I would love to be able to apologize for the very few things I have done "wrong" during my 20+ years as a surgeon..... I would love to be able to simple express being "sorry" for the disease state, in which so many of the sick find themselves.
for all intents..... it is a strict "no no" to say sorry in any context to a patient.
@Seriously "I don't know a single doctor who is doing it for the money," yes, emergency room doctors may not be doing it for the money, but how about the dermatologists?
Call me cynical.
@ezr2061 If you have to do that to get your doctor to talk to you, its time to find a new doctor.
I work for a practice of 9 doctors & there are only 3 of which whose handwriting is hard to read. The rest actually have really nice, legible writing, whether it's cursive or print. The 3 with chicken scratch dictate their notes :-)
It looks like the person who received the noted and posted it wanted the message to go out but remain anonymous. No conspriacy here, Granny.
@LindaJaffeOliver I can completely understand your feelings. I am a senior and have had a number of those close to me "gone". There is another side to those people from Duke Childrens" that you in your sorrow may not understand through no fault of your own. My wife is a retired Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse. She practiced in a facility that took care of the most severe cases. Nearly 1/2 of her tiny patients did not survive. The nurses were the best of the best but could never allow themselves to become in any way attached to the cases or they would fall apart emotionally. Those that became attached in any way became unstable very quickly. Being unattached also means devoid of compassion. Do you think that you could stay stable if you allow yourself to be attached and yet nearly every day you loose a patient?
@Margret I have worked in the healthcare industry for 25 years. I have NEVER seen a physician write so beautifully. Maybe she dictated to another person to write. No way that's a doctors handwriting. lol
@Ludwig1251 @Margret, @Xlolax that is such a stereotypical statement to make, "that no physician has legible handwriting" I happen to have a couple of physicians whose handwriting- in a case such as this- would be entirely legible! A simple "Most physicians have illegible handwriting" would suffice. I believe it is a very caring and heartfelt note, and I wish that my family had received such a note after the death of my mother six years and 2 days ago! There were Hospice Nurses that showed a lot of care for the family during my mother's final week at home (one even came to her funeral); but most of the doctors had a serious need for Bedside Manner Training!
@Ludwig1251 I think the doctor is a woman.
@Ludwig1251 could be that the Doctor took the time to write from his/her heart rather than having to scribble notes at light speed in order to ensure everything regarding the patient they are currently treating is documented.
@docwhocuts Im willing to bet sir, that the world as seen through the eyes of each life you've touched was made to be a bit better if not a hell of alot better. Even with a few wrongs a person in your chosen profession is for lack of a better metaphor a gift from god (or if you'd prefer non religious statement) the amount of right you have done- out ways any sorta wrong! I mean from the time you decided to practice you volunteered your life to help others so all be it for whatever reason the fact is you dedicated your life in pursuit of helping others period! Now unless you were doing faulty weirdo sick stuff chin up, shake it off , snap outta it , it is time to feel good about your self and all those you have helped!!! ps i am aware of cosmetic surgery etc regardless it is good also excuse my grammar and or spelling I am not a surgeon lol (that was suppossed2be funny) as i was saying not a dr just been around so many as the daughter of a dificult very greatful patient my mother; man u guys get a lot of static, sorry and thank you
@docwhocuts Really? I am glad that you are not on my trauma team Dr. My team of trauma surgeons are as compassionate a group of physicians as I have ever seen. Many times when we received a gravely injured trauma patient, the surgeon will go out to speak to the family of the patient. He/She tells them everything that has transpired and that he/she will do their best but that something are out of everyone's control. When we have had a patient pass away, I have never, ever seen any of our surgeons not say "I am sorry for your loss". Most times many of our gravely injured patients are lucky that they reach us alive. We give them a chance. There is nothing wrong by a physician expressing his/her condolences to a family who has just lost a loved one. Most patients realize that physicians are not GOD.
@docwhocuts I would NEVER, NEVER become a DR. if that were the case. If I did become a Dr. I would express my feeling just like this Dr. did, KUDOS to this Dr.
SHOULDN'T BE THOUGH!!!!
"testimate"? i believe the word you are looking for is "testament". my apologies if i offend, spelling and use of words is a pet peeve of mine. i usually control it but i've seen this mistake a LOT and someone with 12 years of college behind them should damn well know better!
In my opinion docwhocuts is simply saying he himself actually would
Like to behave like the doc in this story. Lawyers use it against the docs and hospital administrators tell the doc they are doing the wrong thing to apologize. It's a complicated world and communication is read (as in this story) through a variety of lenses. He also was complimenting the doc of story for his writing ability in navigating the pitfalls. At least that's the way I read it.
I wish the world were a place that allowed us to show concern with candor; it's not a village, it just isn't. Docwhocuts is definitely NOT an Sob in my opinion. He seemed as touched by the story as anybody.
Huh? what wrongdoing is the doctor admitting to? Why should a doctor have to avoid guilt in the first place for taking care of a terminal cancer patient who dies? I think you're putting your experience in place of what's being discussed in the article.
By the way, Apologies go a long way and many institutions have learned to embrace them. You may have missed the 34 or so states that have made doctor apologies inadmissable in court.
@ARooster @LindaJaffeOliver That is the MAIN reason I did not become a nurse. Everyone said that I would make a GREAT nurse. I become too attached to people normally, can you imagine me doing the work of a Hospice nurse for example? Instead, I took care of my entire family, 2 little brothers and my Mother and Dad. I was their heathcare giver and surrogate, that was indeed enough for me.
@KurtBrewster I don't think that DocWhoCuts was referring to only this case. But it's true that in general, a letter from a doctor -no matter how innocent and well-intended - could be used as evidence in court. While the apology itself may not be admissible, any other information in the letter could be used against the doctor. That's why they are heavily discouraged from writing any letters expressing condolences. Just to be on the safe side, doctors also carefully word their apology as "I am sorry for your loss" so it can't be construed as their being sorry for anything they've done.
It's really quite sad, but this is just one of the many negative results of our overly litigious society.
@KurtBrewster you are cold if you do not understand that he was an SOB simple as that. That patient that was terminal was my dad.