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Read the handwritten ER doctor’s note that’s gone viral on Reddit

9:35 am by | 181 Comments

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Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 1.16.40 PMComputers 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.

One said:

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.

Another wrote:

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]

Copyright 2014 MedCity News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
More posts by Author

183 comments
L in Iowa
L in Iowa

Many are commenting on rude doctors, and I know very well they are out there! However, there is a factor that contributes to this that must be considered - the way the doctors get treated by the patients and their significant others. I know that sick people coming in are afraid and have some right to be demanding, but they are very often rude, selfish, annoying, vulgar, unappreciative, belligerent, tactless, impatient, inconsiderate, vile and just downright stupid. Many of the walls that get put up aren't so much to shield themselves from the emotional ups and downs of the pain and suffering they deal with, they are to shield themselves from the pain and rejection of being treated like a jack-ass instead of a professional.

Guest
Guest

It's nice to know there's at least one doctor at NYP who is a human being. I've been unfortunately enough to land in NYP's ER a number of times and it is a horrible place. The doctors and nurses are rude, uncaring, and impatient. Once, after sitting for 10 hours without being seen (it took 4 hours to get to triage), I tapped on a doctor's arm and told him I was feeling dizzy, having trouble breathing and could he please find someplace for me to lay down. He grabbed me, shoved me into a beat up worn out chair, told me he'd make sure I'd wait another 10 hours before seeing a doctor and called for a guard to stand over me so I couldn't leave the chair. As soon as the guard turned his back I got up and sprinted for the door as fast as I could manage. I took a cab to another ER. was triaged within 30 minutes, immediately taken into the back, put on oxygen and within another 15 minutes had 3 doctors checking me out and running tests. I was immediately admitted and put on large amounts of antibiotics for almost a week before being discharged. Turned out I had a bad case of pneumonia and had I continued to wait at NYP's ER, I probably would have dropped dead on the floor without anyone noticing or caring.

Bonn7777
Bonn7777

The story clearly states that the person that wrote the note said this is the first such note SHE has written.  It really does not matter if it is he or she, the person definitely had compassion for the patient and wanted the husband to know that the wife, as well as them as a couple, had touched the dr. in a special way.  There are good medical personnel, doctors, nurses, technicians and others, that should be told that they are doing a good job when we feel that they are.  The bad ones also need to be taken to task and be reported to the appropriate person as well.  I have heard many times that we are responsible for our own health and that includes finding another doctor if the case warrants it.  If there are enough complaints about the bad ones, hopefully, they will be replaced.

KarenATL
KarenATL

With all of the general complaining about medical care (and there is some really lousy care out there), those that treat patients and families as more than just a body on an exam table get lost in the shuffle. They include nurses, attendants, and doctors and there are a lot of them that really go the extra mile, especially in the ER, where everything is moving faster than light some time. It can be a really scary place, and those that put in the extra effort are truly appreciated, even if we as patients don't get the chance to tell them.

Betty Tomlinson
Betty Tomlinson

When my mother passed I will never forget the kindness shown to us by the Pastor of the church we had just joined, (First Presbyterian Church in Freeport, NY).  Not only did he come over at 2:30AM when my aunt called him, he picked her up (she did not drive), said a prayer with us and then proceeded to wash the dishes in the sink from the night before (we had been up with Mommy all night), make coffee for everyone who came during the day, fixed refreshments with what he found in the kitchen, and helped us call everyone who was important to us that morning and all day.  We had only joined the church 2 weeks prior!

His name is Pastor Duff Griffin and he was a Navy man before becoming a priest.  We, my sister, my Dad and I will never forget this man who came into our home that morning and took over when our grief was too much to bear before and after a very painful funeral. I always say "for every bad story you hear, there are many good ones".

Paster Griffin is the kind of man who truly had a calling and we will never forget him.  God will bless him always.

LouiseBleil
LouiseBleil

You're a very lucky person, not all people are so lucky

cityboy
cityboy

I stopped wondering about the doctor when I saw NY Pres. Probably some of the best if not THE best medical professionals in the world IMHO. My son was born premature over 20 years ago and you'd never know it today. I directly relate his well being to the exemplary care he received in the NICU there.

LeviGPHunt
LeviGPHunt

Sadly, that's the one thing that you can't train for and you really can't get ready for until it happens.  Unfortunately my first real loss was also a good friend.  That hit me hard. And it's likely why I left the idea of going into nursing or PA school and went to into the IT field. I have my patients now, but they're silicone and replaceable.

Bless all of you going into the medical field, from the EMT-B to the greatest Surgeon.  You have a lifetime of learning each time you put on your uniform ahead of you at times.  But there are those of you who find a balance and remain compassionate to pick up on these things and you will do exactly what was meant to be done at the moment it was meant to happen. 

Native Angeleno
Native Angeleno

I disagree, the note struck me as too businesslike not to have been written by a man. I believe i'll be proven right.

sherrybb
sherrybb

MJL...your folks sound awesome...i know some doctors like them too. Hats off to them and all like them. Thanks for sharing...i can see why they are beloved.

MJL
MJL

My parents are both ER doctors.  Every night at the dinner table, they'd talk about (unnamed!) patients and how they could do better next time.  They'd cry over losses and celebrate good outcomes.  Every time administration put some new restriction on them (for instance, they now are given an ideal time per patient, and if they spend too long, they don't get their bonus), they'd fight it as hard as they could if it would impact patient care.  They weren't atypical either.  I knew all their colleagues, and it was the same at their tables.  They are beloved in our small community, but seldom get bonuses or raises because they take 'too much time' with their patients.  People tend to blame doctors because the doctor is the face they see in a clinic, but often things like how condolences are worded, how long they spend with you, how much mental energy they spend fighting with the cheap-yet-unwieldy medical chart software, and whether they even have a splint to give you for your sprain is out of their hands.

rar113
rar113

When my mother A"H died of colon cancer 40 years ago, my father was paying the bills, and noticed he didn't have one from the surgeon who had done several procedures to relieve the pressure and blockages in her bowel.  When he inquired, the surgeon told him, "I didn't heal her, I just relieved some of her pain.  I can't bill you for that."  Medicine has come a long way in 40 years, and maybe she could have been saved if it were today.  But this kind of integrity and compassion, I think we were better off back then when medicine wasn't a multi-trillion dollar industry.

leprechankid
leprechankid

I have a fantastic pain management MD.  This woman is so open and caring it is amazing.  She remembered me from being one of the hundreds of patients who took pain mgmt a few years ago.  I wish she could be my regular doctor but I will have to part from her in a couple of months.  Fortunately my internal medicine doctor is caring as well.  Oddly in my HMO the doctors seem to be especially caring but many of the para-professionals are not.  They seem to be trying to prove that they deserve respect by having negative attitudes rather than by actually being caring and professional.

Donna
Donna

This has touched my heart and made me realize all doctors are not like the surgeon I had.  Dr. William Kessler of Austin Tx. was to do a Biopsy on a spot of my lung to see if it was cancer and even sent a letter to my referring doctor stating this.  Dr. Kessler took out 50% of my lung with no Biopsy to see if it was cancer-it was Not Cancer.  I am now on oxygen.  This letter helps let us all know there are great doctors out there.

Donna

APage
APage

I had an ER doctor save my life, and I couldn't be more thankful for how he helped me and my husband in the crazy hours between admission and surgery.

lah30303
lah30303

Personally, when it comes to ER situations, I would prefer having a doctor that doesn't care until after the fact. I would make no attempt to connect with the doctor until I was already helped. I'd prefer the doctor to be focused on thinking clearly and logically rather than worrying and being more stressed than the ER job must already be by becoming attached.

DogEars
DogEars

Funny couldnt get my doctors to listen to anything for 13 years they ignored me and treated me for Fibromyalgia all the while  i had lyme disease had to treat it myself with Collodial silver.  After 13 years of being deadly sick i feel great today.  I dont trust a one of them anymore.  It is refreshing at least one listened to someone.

Manchie
Manchie

I met one ER doctor that I would give anything if he was a family doctor & I even ask him if he had an office because I would love to have him for my family doctor. He had so much compassion for his patients. Unfortunately he was only ER. He was so good with his patients. Much appreciation for him because he was exceptionally good with my father when he broke his hip. Wish all his doctors after he left the ER would have been like him.

Manchie
Manchie

It is very rare that you find a doctor so caring. Most are in it for the money & don't really care. I have had several surgeries & only one doctor has really cared. It is good to read this & know there are some out there that care about their patients. This was an uplifting story, respect for that doctor.

LouiseBleil
LouiseBleil

Just have to wonder how many more of these you'll see after the full implementation of Obamacare.I would  hope not many.

Tessa
Tessa

What an amazing story. Can identify with this doctor. Am a retired nurse, and experienced this too. The bottom line was efficiency, cost containment NO overtime.

No listening to patients, no holding their hand when they were fearful and alone, just rushing from one crisis to the next in a horribly busy ICU for 20 years. Went to long term care. . .and after4 years of going home emotionally broken daily, due to inadequate staffing, poor care due to same and letting my patients without family die alone again due to short staffing, left to do home health. The paperwork was horrific, was able to spend more time with my patients but at the sacrifice of my family time, finishing paperwork at home. Fixable? Oh yes, but no company will run any facility without big profits. The patients suffer, the staff burns out, big profits are made. Looking back, my career was rewarding because I broke rules, clocked out then finished paperwork. Thousands of hours of volunteer time, that made a difference to some of my patients. Would I do it again? Of course, we shouldn't be paid for kindnesses.

GuestyGuest
GuestyGuest

This was not written by a doctor. I can read the handwriting.

RDaneelOlivaw
RDaneelOlivaw

As a physician and as someone who trains physicians, I can tell you that the human connection is essential to our effectiveness. It is something that is difficult to select for through the medical school selection process, but it becomes evident in training and in practice.

I've heard of the myth of the physician who is a complete jerk but make up for it with their brilliant clinical or surgical skills.I can tell you that those types of physicians survive in spite of their personality and there are other physicians who are just as technically brilliant but are more successful because they can relate to their patients, their colleagues, and their staff.  I love my patients, and I love my students who show love for their patients.

Kellie Pritchett
Kellie Pritchett

I think that for every caring physician there is probably one that is either desensitized to the human aspect of medicine and those that view their patients as a variable in an experiment that could supply with the chance of notariety, as in the case of m,y grandmother's brain tumor.  Not only did the surgery leave her unable to speak, walk, or even feed herself, but it left her with the same life expectancy as doing nothing.  Through it all, my grandmother was brave and my mother devotedly stayed by her side and cared for her.  I wish we had this doctor.

Kellie Pritchett

esideheart
esideheart

I have met very few doctors who have not responded to a patient with kindness and dignity. Maybe most have not the time to write a note to follow their care, but their hearts are in the touch and direction of patient care, and most doctors go beyond the plans for their care. Don't be so hard on your care taker. It takes a special person to work with patients day in and day out, 24/7, doing the right thing for their care. From 0 days old to beyond geriatric ages, having the patience and working through the tiredness, praying for a clear mind, writing down the symptoms for the right tests being ready to pass on to the shifts. 

We all care for our patients no matter what mood they are in, wanting to get them well, comfortable, and be able to comfort the family in dire needs. 

Pray for us, for the patient and most of all, have faith God is with us.  

13days
13days

@rar113 "I think we were better off back then when medicine wasn't a multi-trillion dollar industry"

I really wish you wouldn't say that. We must (and I do) still believe that people are still people, and they do care. Perhaps they are more rushed, but my hope is that they are simply saving more lives than they would have had to in another time.

barbara
barbara

@lah30303, as professionals we can feel empathy and still use our brains and do the job. It's hard for me to imagine letting my emotions rule me to that extent.

Taffy321
Taffy321

@DogEars  You and I share the same story, as do many Lyme sufferers. I have been treated so poorly and callously by ER doctors that my daughter, who also has Lyme, is scared to death to walk into an ER. It took 12 different diagnosis to finally be diagnosed with Lyme. If my daughter hadn't begun to develop the same symptoms, I'd be dead from taking meds to cover up the pain instead of treating the cause. 8 years later, we're still largely disabled and have been bankrupted with medical bills. My sigh of relief at receiving the proper diagnosis was very short lived after realizing 99% of doctors and no infectious disease doctors have any clue how to treat Lyme effectively.

SaraBernardo
SaraBernardo

@DogEars the trick is to keep going to doctor after doctor after doctor until one finally listens. i finally got one to really listen to me a few weeks ago after years of complaining about the same problems and knowing it had to be something bigger than just individual symptoms. i'm now on the path to finding the right treatment and am feeling mentally better since someone has finally taken the time to hear my words and really listen to their meaning. I hope you find the same, and that someone is able to help restore your faith in medical professionals- because I promise you, more than just this one doctor actually do care.

LouiseBleil
LouiseBleil

@Manchie This is, unfortunately, the case.  My sister worked in an ER for years-----so much precludes any personal involvement--it's sad.

Faarooqu
Faarooqu

Oh, you have to go to them because they're necessary for your health or life? Well, if you can't be thankful for their bedside manner, you can at least be grateful they spent all that time learning how to treat you. If they hadn't, I guess you'd be as SOL.

Faarooqu
Faarooqu

If you think doctors are so awful, don't go to them.

usmutts
usmutts

@LouiseBleil  Why do you hate the fact that millions of  your fellow citizens can now afford health insurance?

sherrybb
sherrybb

@LouiseBleil  good god woman.....please can we have a break from the O bashing ---for just a moment? For the record, not everybody feels as you do, including doctors.

DougCollins
DougCollins

@LouiseBleil I don't understand what you mean...Nevertheless, it's really tacky to inject something as annoying as politics into an otherwise heart warming story. Shame on you for trying to sneak this in.

chandleroct
chandleroct

@Tessa God bless you Tessa for all that you did.

JennRansom
JennRansom

@soonermomma @Native Angeleno  There's a black bar over the name of the doctor. While I can make out what is possibly an E and a Y at the beginning and end of the first name, based only on the top of the first letter and the bottom of the last letter, it doesn't make it Emily. I could also be Eddy, or the first letter might not be an E at all. It could also be an F, T or I. Unless you have the ability to see through black lines, I don't see how you're certain the first name of the doc is Emily. 

Sergio A Johnson
Sergio A Johnson

@13days @rar113

Unfortunately, you are very naïve.  People are still people, and they do care. Perhaps they are more rushed, . . . '  Surely you are aware that at least 50% of doctors resent the conditions under which they have to practice medicine.  Surely you know that the single most significant contributor to the frustration of a nurse or doctor, are constraints to patient care that are imposed on them by administrators, insurance companies etc.  Surely you know that these entities; hospital Administrators, Insurance company executives, etc., have not the slightest interest in the care provided to your mother at 2230 in the ED, or the next million people treated in the US. 

It's true, people are people - and some of them are very bad people who will hurt anyone to maintain their salary or bonus.  And they are not all in the tobacco industry.

It is sad, but the 'still believing' are among the reasons that we will soon reap what we have allowed to be sown. 


.ead more: http://medcitynews.com/2013/02/read-the-handwritten-er-doctors-note-thats-gone-viral-on-reddit/#ixzz30D4zinqT

LouiseBleil
LouiseBleil

@usmutts @LouiseBleil Because I can't afford to pay for my own and the health care of someone with six or eight kids that I don't know. Let them take care of themselves just like I do and without using my limited resources.

olivert5
olivert5

@DougCollins @LouiseBleil  Good for you Doug and believe it or not people such as Louisebleil with be the main individuals using Obamacare. We will soon find how successful this act is once it's called The affordable care act. 

LouiseBleil
LouiseBleil

@DougCollins @LouiseBleil Whether you like it or not-----politics are going to be in everything from now on---Obie's gift to America.  It's the reality of life.

Fils_d_Artemis
Fils_d_Artemis

@Stapler @soonermomma   If you look at the word directly above the name you can see that the letter L is taller than the letter Y, yet in the first name it would be shorter.  That leads me to believe the middle letters in the name must all be short ones.

I'm also not convinced it ends in a Y.  My surname ends in a letter that drops below the line and I write it the same as my signature everywhere else. This writer loops their Y, but didn't in their name. They also have a fairly unique lower-case F, especially in or at the end of a word.

Still lots of possibilities...

Sully14
Sully14

@LouiseBleil @usmutts This is saving you money.  Now these victimless kids will get healthcare when they need it and it costs less rather than later when the costs are enormous. This is why every other industrialized country in the world with less of a GDP than ours already covers 100% of its citizens.  It's smart money, it's smart economics, it's smart humanely, it's smart religiously, and it's smart politics.  In addition, many of those now receiving healthcare are disabled veterans like myself.  This is because too many Republican idiots that you vote for have voted against expanding medical benefits to cover 100% of those who served our fine country and provide our VA with the funding it needs to fully provide for our heroes.  Yet your too insensitive to a family of 8 that is struggling to survive, you have no problem with the corporate welfare that the repulsive Republican party relentlessly supports shelling out to their "friends".

DRR
DRR

@CharlesRahn "Obummercare"?  You are too old to talk this way.  At least change your picture if you insist on sounding like a child.