Among hospice staff, it is called “getting it.” One says, “He doesn’t get it,” “I think she gets it,” or, “They definitely get it.” It is a little hard to define, but as with pornography, you know it when you see it.   Nonetheless, given the importance of “getting” good end-of-life care, let us take a moment to try and explain. The 92-year-old patient is bleeding into her head, but has blood ...

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Now that I’m getting ready to turn 70, I thought I’d summarize what I’ve learned since I finished my residency, when I was 28. Of course, I didn’t learn all this only by being a psychiatrist, since I would hope that most folks have also learned lots in the last 41 years. 1. Psychotherapy is important, particularly if the patient is on the right medication. I won’t do “med checks,” since I ...

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When asked during a recent ICU rotation if I was considering critical care as a subspecialty, I offended more than one person with my response: “No, I really don’t enjoy torturing old people.”  Granted, that unfiltered comment came at the end of a long and sleepless 28-hour shift, but the sentiment holds true. As doctors, we have a number of tools to assess quality of life in research.  We use fancy ...

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Naturopaths are currently engaged in an intensive lobbying effort at the Capitol in order to gain recognition as medical practitioners and inclusion in Medicare. As a retired naturopath who was licensed in two states, I want to offer a primer to this political maneuver: Naturopaths are not who they say they are. To be fair, naturopaths (NDs) are no longer obscure practitioners. NDs are currently licensed or registered in 18 U.S. ...

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Taxes. Doing taxes feels like a financial rectal exam.  I hate doing taxes.  Yeah, I don't like getting rectal exams either. It's not that I resent paying the government for the fine services they render and the high quality of elected officials we have. It's not the existence of taxes I hate; it's just doing taxes make me feel extremely insecure.  Sharing my personal and business finances with my accountant and the ...

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The following is paraphrased documentation, authored by a physician I know, regarding an intoxicated patient in the ER: 1 a.m.: Patient is telling nurse, “Before I leave, I need everyone’s name for my lawsuit. Tell the phlebotomist that if he’s good, he’ll get a cut.” 1:40 a.m.: Patient is making inappropriate sexual comments and is verbally aggressive with medical staff. He is advised to stay in bed. 2:02 a.m.: Patient (who had been sleeping comfortably) wakes up and ...

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My friend Dawn and I recently attended an evening meeting of the Houston Society of Plastic Surgeons.  Since we were invited guests, and not plastic surgeons, we didn’t stop on the way into the lovely formal dining room to pick up our name badges because the organizers had not made them for us.  On the way out, however, we both noticed clear plastic perfectly formed oval objects sitting on the ...

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Physicians play many roles in patients’ health care and lives in general. In one encounter we may be the only one encouraging a hesitant or discouraged person to look inside and outside themselves for the strength to move forward with a difficult decision. In the very next appointment, we may be taking charge as a patient develops chest pain and shortness of breath in front of our eyes. We sometimes find ourselves in ...

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Sometimes in my research on physician/patient communication, I come across a doctor who is so good with her patients, I have to share their bedside manner with you. The most recent example is a (to remain unnamed) oncologist in the northeastern United States who practically gave a primer on shared decision making when caring for a patient with metastatic cancer. The patient (I’ll call her Jennifer Decker) had stage 4 breast ...

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Many young physicians in training have asked me, quietly or by e-mail, "Is it possible to be a Christian and practice emergency medicine?"  I think that they ask a good question, and likely for good reasons. In their rotations, they have witnessed, first hand, life in the ER.  They are uncertain, perhaps, because they see the frustration that boils over in the words and actions of otherwise compassionate and caring doctors ...

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