. . . always a teacher.

Last Tuesday (the morning after our lovely evening in the ER), I had the opportunity to speak to a class of first year med students at Case. The professor is a friend of mine and was a regular reader of Austin’s Carepage. She teaches what she’s dubbed the “touchy-feely” coursework at Case — always reminding med students to skip the medical jargon and speak in a language patients can actually understand or keeping them in touch with the more human side of science.

The topic was doctor-patient communication and I was asked to speak both as a diabetic patient and as the mother of a cancer patient. It was really interesting and so much fun. I could barely fit in all I had to say about the issue (shocking, I know).  It was sort of funny because she kept reminding me ahead of time how little experience these students have had in medicine — they’re just a few months into their program after all — so it was me who had to make sure not to use too much medical jargon!  

But I forgot to mention my most important piece of advice for new doctors and so, in case any of the hundreds of students in that lecture hall have found their way here, it is this:

Close the door.

I cannot tell you how many times a team of doctors will creep into your room late at night to check vital signs or look at an incision site (not sure why that needs to be done in the middle of the night but I guess they need something to keep them busy at all hours), and they come in quietly and usually I would just pretend to sleep right through it (because who really wants to make small talk at 3 am?) and finally they would leave . . . with the door still slightly ajar. And I’d lie there in bed with the hallway light streaming in and the hushed noises of the nurses’ station down the hall, wondering if maybe they were planning to return in a few minutes with some new medicine or replacement equipment, and I’d wait and wait and wait . . .  And it wasn’t just that I didn’t feel like getting up because I was so comfortably sleeping. It was because I was sharing a bed with Austin who was (finally) sound asleep on my arm and it would have required detangling both of us from his IV lines and most definitely rousing a small someone who did not need to be roused.

So there you have it, my number one piece of advice from someone who has spent way too much time in a hospital: close that damn door. Nurses, by the way, never leave the door open behind them.

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