What is a Doctor and What is a Nurse? As Patients, We Have the Answer

By Aaron Michelfelder and Fran Vlasses

As the health care professions struggle with defining a “doctor,” a “nurse,” and all of the other remarkable people comprising the health-care team, it is clear to us that the most important perspective is that of the patient.  Who better to contribute to the conversation than a physician and a nurse who are patients themselves?

The Patient (a physician) on “What is a Nurse?”

It was the outpatient nurse whom I nervously called for an appointment with the surgeon, and who compassionately found a reasonably soon appointment time. At the visit, it was her gentle voice that immediately calmed me, and she who corrected the medication errors in my electronic chart. Later, as I lay on the hospital gurney awaiting surgery, it was the pre-op nurse who recognized the fear on my stoic face. She was the one who squeezed my hand and whispered, “Everything will be alright.” In the operating room through a haze of machines, bright lights, sedatives, and scattered voices, it was the pacemaker nurse, whom I have come to know well over many years, who triggered in me a wave of relief as she deactivated my defibrillator in preparation for surgery.  Before the anesthesia, her face was the last I remember seeing, and hers was the first I saw when groggily recovering as she reactivated my defibrillator She who first relayed the good news of the successful surgery. It was the shaking hands of the student nurse, who attempted to change the IV bag, and his confident nurse professor who together, did everything right. At home, it was the surgical nurse practitioner who called to check on my recovery, and whose compassion and support bubbled through the phone.  All of these extraordinary individuals have different training, duties, and approaches to health care; and yet as a patient, I recognize each of them as a nurse…
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Illness As An Opportunity for Reflection: Enabling the Unseen To Be Seen

By David Leach

On March 1st my aortic valve was replaced. I received extraordinary care, was discharged on the third postoperative day, and am doing very well. When I arrived from the operating room to the intensive care unit I had an endotracheal tube, two chest tubes, an arterial line, a jugular vein Swan-Ganz catheter, two 14 gauge intravenous lines, a urinary catheter, various chest leads monitoring my heart rhythm, a pulse oxygen monitor and I have rarely felt better. In fact I was filled with joy. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons rates the 1300 plus cardiovascular surgery programs in the U.S. and I was happy to discover that my local thoracic surgery program was highly rated. I was grateful to have a disease that was fixable and a surgeon who knew how to fix it. I was also terrified at what I would have to go through to get it fixed. I did not anticipate joy…
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Awareness Creation in Healthcare Should be a Priority in the Developing World

By Calvince Owiti

I was born about two decades ago in a small village in Western parts of Kenya.  I grew up in a humble background, learning all that was relevant that time.  My grandparents were herbal medical practitioners.  I lived with them most of my early life even though my parents were still alive. My grandfather kept on calling me ‘ajuoga’(meaning doctor).  Before he became a herbalist, he had been to a seminary where he was training as a father but left before finishing for a driving job in Tanzania.  He could urge me every morning to study hard in class to become a modern doctor.  They could treat all conditions, including malaria, curses as well as a number of obstetric/gynecological conditions.  However; there was one practice that kept me wondering…

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Social determinants: Why are they so difficult to address?

“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.”
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty. 1869

By Greg Gruener

At a lecture I recently attended with our students, the guest speaker’s topic was on health disparities and the data presented was, as most of us in the healthcare field know, pretty conclusive.  I have to admit that I knew and had seen this same information in prior lectures, articles, and had gone over it in small group discussions.  I also knew that health disparities existed because of various social determinants.  While the subsequent discussion moved along, I was left at the reflective starting line since I finally grasped the fact that being caused by social determinants, health disparities could only be completely addressed by changing those same determinants.  This is not news for most people in healthcare as their organizations and schools, unlike business, law, etc., have been charged (and are accredited) with addressing those determinants.  So, despite being immersed in the data, why had it taken me so long to have this aha moment?  Here is my explanation for a cognitive lapse, as informed by Donald Rumsfeld…

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Promoting Social Justice in Medical Education

A profile of Dean Linda Brubaker, MD, MS, Dean and Chief Diversity Officer, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine

Professor Linda Brubaker brings an enthusiasm for medical education, social justice, and her medical specialty fields of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery (urogynecology) to her several roles at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine (SSOM). As a medical scholar, researcher, educator, journal editor, and clinician who sees patients every week, author of nearly 300 journal articles and book chapters, and principal investigator on five federally-funded research grants, she is uniquely suited to leading a medical school in the application of Jesuit educational values…

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A Cut Above- A reduction in the number of cadavers and instructors actually improves the teaching of medical gross anatomy

By Michael Dauzvardis

Time: midnight
September, 2011
Place: gross anatomy lab
Music playing softly in the background: Your Body is a Wonderland, by John Mayer

“I’ve been at it for 4 hours and still can’t find the greater occipital nerve!” barks Joe, a first year medical student meticulously dissecting the posterior neck region on his cadaver— which he has nick-named Marvin.

Emily, one of Joe’s four dissection partners, quips “Perhaps that’s what killed Marvin—the congenital lack of a left greater occipital nerve!” 

“Hilarious, “Joe retorts “Remind me to laugh.”

At that instant, Joe, in a moment of frustration, slips and forcibly plunges his scalpel into the neck musculature– striking bone.

Emily cautiously points, smiles, and adds “Oh—I didn’t know the greater occipital nerve was hollow.”

Joe, with his overzealous dissection technique, had managed to cut through both the greater occipital nerve and occipital artery.

“You’ll make a fine psychiatrist” taunts Emily.

Joe sets down his scalpel, rips off his gloves, and sulks out of the lab…

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Presence and Vulnerability in Medical Education

By Sunny Nakae

In my MSW program I took a diversity and social justice course.  The class was very engaged and often intense; we became well acquainted as we shared our stories.  Mid-way through the semester the instructor assigned us to read an article from our local newspaper about living with HIV.  The article, unbeknownst to the instructor, happened to feature an individual in our class.  Everyone was acutely aware as we shuffled into the classroom that day. We did not know what to expect…Read More »