Eight months into a healthy pregnancy, my belly suddenly hung lower. I noticed that the baby’s movements slowed, decreased in frequency, and seemed sluggish compared to just a few days before. Concerned that something might be wrong, I called my obstetrician’s office and described what I’d noticed. The nurse I spoke with gave rote and reassuring advice: “Babies often get crowded near the end of pregnancy,” she said briskly. “Drink some ...

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An article from the Wall Street Journal caught my attention, and for all the wrong reasons. It was a review of two recent studies showing that medical trainees have difficulty diagnosing patients with complicated histories or confounding psychosocial features. At least, that’s the way I would describe those studies. The WSJ, however, used much more pejorative language, referring to them as “difficult patients,” “a nuisance,” and “an annoyance.” The ...

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A hospital stay is a right of passage for any patient, but the road to health is often a marathon and not a sprint. Discharge is an essential step in the patient journey, but it can be as exciting for a family as it is daunting. Families can prepare ahead and put all the right pieces in place in order for a “soft landing” home. Here are some of our ...

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Patients with extended illness or chronic conditions often acquire a communicative competence with far more complex medical terminology than their doctors realize. This is important, given that patients are too often seen as passive recipients of medical information, or worse, incapable of understanding their own health data. Recent studies show that one of the most effective prescriptions for increasing health outcomes and reducing medical malpractice rates is improving how doctors communicate ...

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Bringing a child into the world is nothing short of a miracle. It’s not comforting to think about, but even if you do everything “right,” there can always be circumstances beyond your control. Whether you have been told to plan for a stay in the NICU or it’s unexpected, here are survival tips from nurses for orienting yourself to the NICU. 1. Try to see your baby as soon as possible. It ...

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I recently consulted a specialist at a major medical center in New York, and a few days later, here came a questionnaire in the mail. "How much time did I spend in the waiting area?" it asked. How long was I kept waiting in the examining room? How close to my appointment time did the doctor see me? The one thing it didn't ask was whether I cared. There's no mystery about ...

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“Who’s in charge of the case?” the doctor asked a bit impatiently. My husband was in the hospital, and his care seemed disjointed and fragmented. I was concerned and called his primary care physician (PCP) to ask advice. He hadn’t known my husband was in the hospital again and seemed frustrated. I thought about his question for a minute and answered, “I guess I am. I am the one who talks to ...

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Obviously, chronic illness doesn’t affect everyone the same way. That said, I’ve heard from people all over the world with every imaginable chronic illness (which includes chronic pain), and our day-to-day lives are strikingly similar. And so, I thought I’d describe a typical “day in the life,” using my own experience from a few months ago as an example. My hope in writing this piece is for those of us ...

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My mom had Alzheimer’s. And she gave me secondhand Alzheimer’s. Haven’t heard of secondhand Alzheimer’s? I’m not surprised. I think I coined the term. The way I saw it, either I had some devastating disease as a result of taking care of Mom with her devastating disease, or I was a complete jerk. Since I didn’t want to think of myself as a complete jerk, I decided I had secondhand Alzheimer’s. ...

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Dear doctors, Are you looking through our charts and wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into? Are you maybe wishing we were someone else’s problem? Yeah, we know. It’s OK. We know we aren’t the type of patient most doctors like to take on. There are a lot of strings attached to us, and there’s a lot of paperwork waiting to join that already insurmountable mountain of paperwork on your desk. We can’t ...

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