Abraham Verghese writes about his experience treating victims of hurricane Katrina in his essay “Close Encounter“. The experience reminds him of working overseas in India and Ethiopia, where “the careful listening, the thorough exam, the laying of hands was the therapy.” Have you ever been in a situation providing medical care when this type of personal touch was the primary treatment? What does taking away many of the medical resources that we take for granted reveal about the other important aspects of medicine?
Verghese goes on to describe a dignified man in his 70’s who has a chilling tale of survival. Verghese reflects on what it means to say and to hear “I’m so sorry.” What do you think it means to this man to hear those words?
Writing Prompt: Verghese begins and ends his piece mentioning the “armor” providers strap on for challenging work shifts. Have you tried to wear such armor in your practice? What was the result? As a patient have you been cared for by medical professionals who seem to wear this armor? How did they come across? Have you ever been “wounded” by a patient interaction? Do you agree with Verghese that the willingness to be wounded may be all we have to offer as providers?