Narrative Medicine Monday: My Patient Doesn’t ‘Do’ Vaccines

The New York Times Well column features many excellent pieces about medicine from the patient, physician and public health perspectives. Danielle Ofri’s “My Patient Doesn’t ‘Do’ Vaccines” is a snapshot of an every day encounter for a physician: a patient disagrees with the recommended care plan. Although immunizations are one of the most common areas of disconnect these days, this can and does happen in many other situations as well: a patient requests antibiotics for a viral illness, a physician recommends a procedure that a patient doesn’t want, a patient requests labs or studies that aren’t indicated, a physician recommends a medication that a patient is hesitant to take. Instead of just letting the situation pass by during a busy clinic day, Dr. Ofri decides to become curious, to engage her patient and educate him on the medical science. He, in turn, is able to voice his concerns and viewpoint.

Writing Prompt: Write about a time there was a disconnect between you and your physician or your patient. Were you curious during the encounter to understand the other person’s fears, concerns or hesitation? Why or why not? As providers, how best can we address valid concerns while staying true to evidence based care? How do our backgrounds color our perspective and ability to engage others?

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Narrative Medicine Monday: The Grand Hotel Mackinac Island

Welcome to Narrative Medicine Monday. Each Monday I’ll post a narrative medicine piece, a short discussion, a few questions and a related prompt. I hope this will provide a place for thoughtful reflection and discussion about medicine and how narrative medicine can help tell patient and provider stories in a meaningful way.

Thomas Gibbs’ The Grand Hotel Mackinac Island is an intense braided essay by an obstetrician, published in Hippocampus Magazine. From the very beginning, we are thrust into Gibbs’ crisis: his obstetrical patient is hemorrhaging and her life is in danger. He intersperses these events with details about the vacation, long awaited, he was supposed to leave for that same day. Gibbs touches on what it means to be a physician invested in your patients, and the inherent sacrifices therein.

If you are a medical provider, have you ever been in a situation where you felt you just couldn’t leave a patient, even for a significant personal or family event? What are the privileges of being a medical provider? What are the sacrifices?

All of us have had to sacrifice an aspect of our personal life due to our work, be it inside or outside of the home. What have you let go of because of your work?

Writing Prompt: Think about a time your life was disrupted by an unexpected medical diagnosis or outcome, either as a patient or as a medical provider. Write for 10 minutes about this disruption. Did you have to let go of anything to be present?

*A note about prompts: When writing from a prompt, consider a “free write”, where you set a timer and write for the full 10 minutes and don’t edit while you write. There’s always time to return to editing later. Free writing is about getting your story down on paper; you may be surprised what your writing reveals.

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