"What's the most common missed fracture?" my supervising PA asked during my clinical rotation in the emergency department. "The second one," I answered confidently. It was the right answer, and I surprised him by knowing it. He had previously given a lecture to my class and had emphasized this clinical pearl in such a way that I knew it was one of his favorite trick questions. Unfortunately, I didn't always know ...

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It is no secret that health care providers shoulder a lot of responsibility. As a whole, they take this on with both competence and kindness. Sacrificially, they go above and beyond in order to provide patients with the highest of quality care. They juggle a multitude of professional and personal responsibilities in creative and admirable ways. Meanwhile, each health care provider learns to adopt a unique combination of coping mechanisms ...

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One evening in the clinic’s bullpen provider office, a colleague of mine wondered aloud how to respond to a difficult question a patient asked via patient portal message. A physician within earshot responded, “Just because someone asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer that question.” I tried to empathize with where the physician was coming from. Surely after decades of practicing medicine, one might become weary of spending ...

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There is a pervasive tendency to turn to medicine looking for magic. Patients and health care professionals alike generally expect medicine to be able to cure diseases, alleviate symptoms, and relieve suffering. Historically, medicine has met and exceeded these expectations in a variety of ways. However, in some cases, these expectations can cause a blurring of the lines between hope and reality, resulting in false "promises" and preventable disappointment. You may be ...

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When I was a kid, one of my favorite hobbies was adding to my rock collection. In the summer, I went on road trips with my family to explore the national parks, and at every gift shop, I always gravitated towards the bin of tumbled stones. To me, this was a treasure trove. I looked at all of the stones and was mesmerized by their vibrant colors — from emerald ...

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At LGBTQ health conferences, I am always impressed by how much care and consideration is given to providing a safer space for all who are present. For example, the check-in process typically involves a volunteer asking the attendee whether or not they are OK with having their photo taken. Furthermore, a quiet room is usually available if anyone needs to decompress, and attendees are asked to refrain from wearing perfume ...

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A man in his fifties is wheeled into the emergency department on a gurney hoping he’ll still be around to cheer from the sidelines at his daughter’s next soccer game. A little girl on the pediatric floor upstairs simply hopes her tummy stops hurting. A woman in the clinic explains her puzzling symptoms and hopes that this is the specialist who will finally be able to ascertain why she hasn’t ...

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On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated shortly after liftoff, resulting in the death of the entire seven-person crew. The subsequent investigation revealed that a joint in the right solid rocket booster failed during liftoff, which occurred due to the inadequacy of the O-ring seals. It was about 28-degrees on the morning of the space shuttle launch, and the O-ring seals were not designed to perform at such ...

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First, the cancer diagnosis. Then, the barrage of trite encouragements: You can beat this! Don’t give up. Keep fighting! It’s not only friends and family members who utter these clichés — usually at a loss of what else to say. Health care providers also attempt to bolster patients’ morale with well-intentioned but well-worn phrases too. Unfortunately, these sentiments frequently fail to have the intended effect. Instead of conveying comfort and ...

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