Sunday, August 28, 2005

More Thoughts on the Great Divides

My first clinical months, in the third year of medical school, were in Mott Children's Hospital. Those rooms always had been decorated with balloons and teddy bears and the like, and it seemed to make sense to me.

Later, working with adults, I sometimes wondered why people would put up pictures of their family and stuff. Obviously, I had a lot to learn. I did notice, eventually, that it is a lot easier to think of a patient as a person, if there are personal effects in the room. Conversely, it is a lot harder to dehumanize a patient if you know what their kids and grandkids look like.

A few years ago, when my father was in the hospital after back surgery (which went very well), my middle sister took it upon herself to decorate the room.  She runs a day care center.  All the kids in the center knew my father, and liked him.  So my sister had them all make get-well massages on sheets of construction paper.  There must have been a couple dozen of them, all cute; some quite endearing.  As I recall, they covered most of one of the walls.  

It was effective.  Anyone with two surviving neurons and at least one molecule of serotonin would have recognized the man recovering in the bed, as a treasured member of the community.  Such efforts are a part of what makes a community.  People showing support for each other, openly showing that they care.  

The most obvious function of the get-well messages was to help the patient feel better.  But it does more than that.  It helps the doctors and hospital staff feel good about what they are doing.

Categories: medicine, armchair musings
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