When I hung up my white coat for the last time and left the practice of medicine, the term, “physician burnout” was unfamiliar. It wasn’t until I stumbled across research studies many years later, in my work as a freelance writer, that I finally understood the underlying reasons that I needed to walk away. Today, you can’t read about health care without seeing the term. Does the widespread use of ...

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Every now and then, more often when on call, I experience what I think it was like to be a physician when I was a boy. I remember the era of the house call. I remember the physician as a part of the community. You saw him around town, school, and at church. You knew his wife and went to school with his kids. I remember that. And I remember the ...

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February 14th, 1990 was not any extraordinary Valentine’s Day here on Earth. Couples dined, candles flickered, hands were held. On a day characterized by love, companionship, and joy, an enormous marvel of human ingenuity named Voyager One was embarking on a solitary trip into the cosmos. Initially launched 13 years previous by NASA to explore the universe, this spacecraft stood alone in the silent void of deep space, six billion ...

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In September 2010, a seasoned pediatric intensive care unit nurse administered an accidental overdose to a critically ill baby, giving ten times the amount of calcium that was prescribed. Five days later, this baby, with an already tenuous heart condition, died. The nurse recognized her mistake immediately, informed her superior, and also told the family and physicians. She was, however, escorted out of the hospital, put on administrative leave, and ...

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I was recently invited to visit an academic anesthesiology department to speak to the residents about becoming a leader.  In addition to recognizing the honor and privilege of addressing this important topic with the next generation of physician anesthesiologists, I had two other initial thoughts:  1) I must be getting old; and, 2) This isn’t going to be easy. I came up with the following list of lessons that I’ve learned ...

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Part of a series. We tend to think of the primary care physician (PCP) as the one who does the simple stuff, a doctor who is a mile wide and an inch deep in knowledge and experience. That is a false impression. By education and experience, the PCP is actually a chronic disease specialist. That is, provided the PCP has the time to care for his or her patients with ...

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Imagine you are an ambitious new worker at a powerhouse institution. Your job performance is soaring, but you frankly work like a dog. Your weeks top out at 80 hours, you get maybe a single 24-hour block of time off every 7 days, you work weekends, and you often work up to 30 hours straight in one stint, sleep at work, and eat exclusively from food options in the building. You ...

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The afternoon began like any other day in medical school.  Students arrived at the lecture hall and took their seats.  An individual with long blue-and-white hair and handlebar mustache entered the room wearing oversized fish-print pants, a loose-fitting clown shirt, and a single earing fashioned out of a bent fork.  He casually strolled up to the front, introduced himself as Dr. Patch Adams, and told us that the ...

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Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its report condemning processed meat as a group 1 human carcinogen -- a classification that includes such notorious companions as tobacco smoking, smokeless tobacco, and second-hand smoke. This is not surprising considering that processed meat contains many of the same known or probable carcinogens as cigarette smoke, like heterocyclic amines and N-nitrosamines. Red meat was labeled in the runner-up category ...

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A Kentucky appeals court ruled that a surgeon was not responsible for a burn caused by an instrument that had been removed from an autoclave and placed on an anesthetized patient's abdomen. According to an article in Outpatient Surgery, the surgeon was not in the room when the injury occurred and only discovered it when he was about to begin the procedure. An insufflator valve had been sterilized and was ...

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