Submission from Dr. A Macyk-Davey
While I was a resident, I suffered an early pregnancy loss while at work. True to form as a medical resident, I finished the day as though nothing had happened. I had not yet seen my own physician and had nothing other than a home pregnancy test, so I sent myself to the Grey Nuns ED for assessment. I had done rotations there as a medical student and PGY-1 so it was likely someone would recognize me, but I also knew that early pregnancy problems were something the staff at GNH were very accustomed to dealing with.
I turned up a couple of days later for a followup beta-hCG as directed, bringing a textbook on breast pathology and planning to settle as best as I could into an out-of-the-way plastic chair to wait for my result. The triage nurse went through her usual routine with my history and vitals, then turned to me and said “Have you had a good cry yet?” For a moment I couldn’t answer – if there is such a thing as a good punch in the gut, that’s what it felt like, because she was telling me “you’ve lost something, you have a right to cry for it.” After my venipuncture, I had barely got through the first few pages when the emerg doc came over and said quietly: “Go home, I’ll call you.” I felt a little uncomfortable because I wondered if I was being treated differently as a physician myself, but I am still grateful. Those two short sentences from the nurse and physician did more for me than they probably ever imagined.
Submission from Dr. B Cornelson
When I come into the exam room and patients are sitting with their coats on their laps I ask if I can hang it up for them. A simple courtesy, yet I often hear “No doctor has ever hung my coat up for me.” To start the interview, instead of the hackneyed “What brings you in today?” I ask “How can I help you today?” It sets the tone that I’m there to be of service. After I’ve examined them I help them up off the exam table and make sure they’re stable getting down. For me, patient safety; for them, attentiveness. If I’m sending them out with more than a couple instructions I provide them with a quick letter summarizing them. They often say “I’ll put this on my fridge”. Courtesy and adherence! And then of course I help them get their coat back on at the end. Little courtesies, big impact. I’m fortunate to have a practice that allows me the time to provide these courtesies, but they really only take a few seconds.
Submission from Dr. D Fung
During a long-term care COVID-19 outbreak, I saw a patient with a fever & sat next to them.
They had chocolate ice cream in a cup on their table, untouched. Who wouldn’t want ice-cream while febrile? I spent 30 minutes carefully feeding them the cup. When I stepped out, nurses were surprised I was successful.
Turns out patient didn’t recognize me as regular nursing staff, wasn’t scared I would try to provide care, & let me feed them. My own love of ice cream & taking the time to sit & feed a patient helped them have one of the last “sweet” moments before succumbing to COVID-19.
I have yet to regret kindness – especially at work. I administered something that helped someone feel better. We talk about laughter as the best medicine. Maybe kindness can give it a run for its money!