Narrative Medicine Monday: Close Encounter

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? 

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Narrative Medicine Monday: E.R.: Port-au-PrinceĀ 

H. Lee Kagan reflects on one memorable night working in a Haitian Emergency Room in “E.R.: Port-au-Prince“. What is Kagan expecting of his experience? When I’ve worked overseas, often in a wholly different medical system and in a resource limited environment, I’ve had similar anxieties, drenched in insecurity. Usually I come to realize I was worrying about all the wrong things. Kagan finds himself unsure how to respond when a patient who was raped arrives in the E.R. He questions himself after this encounter. Do you think he should have done something differently? What did Kagan learn about himself?

Writing Prompt: Have you experienced working or living across cultures or in a different system than the one you’re used to? What was different? Did you learn something about yourself or about medicine? Consider re-writing this piece from the point of view of the patient, the nurse who steps in or the volunteer nurse who can’t sleep. Does this give you new insight? 

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