"Nursing students needed to work in the University Hospital. Good pay. Orientation." As a rising nursing school senior in the 1970s, I naïvely applied for the job above without getting the full details. No one mentioned that I'd be working in a psychiatric unit housing twenty-five aggressive, catatonic or schizophrenic patients, many of whom had been locked away for years. The entrance sign, which should have read "Locked Psych/Med/Surg Unit," said simply, ...

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By the time I reached Dr. R, I was twelve months into an undiagnosed, severe, lower abdominal pain condition. Desperate for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan after seeing ten doctors who had misdiagnosed me, I was exhausted and beyond frustrated with the care I’d received. Seated across from Dr. R. in her office with copies of my medical records and symptom diary in tow, I waited quietly while she reviewed ...

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Whenever he meets with a new patient, Harvey Chochinov likes to ask one important question: “What should I know about you as a person to help me take the best care of you that I can?” It’s a question every doctor should ask, says Chochinov, author of Dignity Therapy and director of the Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit; a question he has found helps patient and doctor alike dial ...

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Dr. Kaveh Shojania, a prominent patient safety expert who scoffs at the numbers and laughs at the tragedy inflicted on countless victims of medical error, should step down as editor of a leading hospital safety journal. About three years ago, a scientist named John James published a study proclaiming that -- at minimum -- 210,000 people die every year from hospital errors, making it the third leading cause of death in ...

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Until my physical ailments began worsening rapidly in my late 40s, I was a high achiever, proud of my "kick ass" attitude, thinking I was so competent I could surmount any challenge life threw at me. Life appeared to be straightforward, and I didn't understand why this didn't seem to be the case for so many other less fortunate folks. Though I worked hard for my accomplishments and sometimes struggled, there ...

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“Get well soon!” That’s a common saying. All of us have heard it. But what if you have an illness that you won’t ever get better from? The most horrible part of having a chronic illness is that it’s forever, or for a very long time. Unless your personal miracle comes, your illness will always be with you. There isn’t an end in sight. There’s just adjusting to the pain, the tiredness, ...

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I have been a rehabilitation specialist and case manager working with patients who have neurological and neuropsychiatric impairments for thirty years. About three years ago, my life took an unanticipated detour when I was perforated during a baseline colonoscopy. All of my experience as a case manger and patient advocate could not prevent this error or the others that followed. Although my health, body, and life were forever altered by the ...

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During the first few days that my mother spent in hospice, I silently sat by her bed watching her chest rise and fall, listening to her moan, counting her doses of Ativan, Tylenol, and Morphine, and tallying the days she’d been without food and water. On day five of my vigil, I asked her nurse, “How long can Mom live like this? She hasn’t opened her eyes or eaten or had ...

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After more than fifteen years of being mostly housebound by chronic illness (which includes chronic pain), here are a few of the dilemmas I’ve faced over and over. I’m confident that I’m not alone in my “should I/shouldn’t I?” world. Do I accept an invitation from a friend to get together or do I refuse it? If I refuse the invitation, depending on who issued it, it may be the last one ...

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I accompanied my husband to an office visit with his orthopedic surgeon. Jamie had been experiencing setbacks in his recovery from major surgery. I went with him because I understand how hard it can be to distill medical information on the spot, much less remember it. Documenting what the surgeon said would allow us both to reference it later. The more information Jamie had about his condition, the more of ...

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