Florence Nightingale was among the first nurses who started wearing a nurse’s cap. The cap was derived by nuns and represented those caring for the sick. Hair was neatly tightened into a bun and covered by the cap. Back then becoming a nurse was typically seen as a female profession, but men were allowed to become nurses too. In 1930, only one percent of RNs nationwide were male. Growing up in the 1950s ...

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Part 4 of a series. By the time my father’s metastatic prostate cancer was diagnosed, he was already experiencing symptoms of poor appetite and weight loss, which grew progressively worse following his first hospital admission. As his nutritional status continued to decline, the protein level in his blood decreased, causing significant fluid buildup in his legs and abdomen. During his hospital stays, we consulted with dietitians who created individualized ...

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Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets and Sesame Street, died at the age of 53. His diagnosis was toxic shock syndrome/streptococcus pneumonia — a deadly bacterial infection. We were on vacation when we heard the news: The genius who opened the imaginations and hearts of our children ... maybe you too ... was gone. We were devastated and saddened that the magic Muppet man had died. One year later, our ICU admitted ...

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How can you work for 24 hours in a row? My friends outside of medicine ask me that often. What is it like? I wondered the same thing the night before my first 24-hour shift or “24.” I lay awake worrying, ironically, that I should have gone to bed earlier to rest up for the ordeal. When I get to work, full of nervous energy, I am relieved to find out ...

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It was another simmering-hot Texas day, and the AC was faltering in the family-practice clinic where I worked as a family nurse practitioner. Most of our clients were poor and spoke only Spanish. My nurse, Eliza, approached, wide-eyed. "There's a new patient — a woman named Maraby. She seems really angry," she murmured. "She's the color of Dijon mustard, and she's wearing a long, heavy wool cape. She looks like she's nine ...

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I know what you’re thinking: She’s cold-hearted, cruel, and unkind. But am I? Or are you? Grandma Lilly is 87-years-old and in the ICU. She’s on a ventilator with her wrists restrained to the side of the bed. Grandma can barely see because her eyes are puffy: scleral edema. And her heart races: 140 beats per minute. Her blood pressure is low and Levophed and vasopressin drips are ordered. Her family can’t talk ...

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We recently had a patient who arrived on our service in the intensive care unit after a complicated surgery. The surgery left him close to dying, and he was immediately put on life support and given heavy sedatives. Ventilators breathed for him. Special drugs kept his heart beating. A continuous pump acted as his kidneys, filtering out his body’s toxins and infusing the cleaned blood back into his veins anew. He had ...

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I recently read an article entitled “The family said, ‘Do everything.’” It described the case of an elderly patient at the end-stage of life. The article concluded that “If your loved one has reached an end-stage of life, do the right thing. Let them die peacefully.” While I agree with this author’s intent, recent experience has altered my perspective on the “right thing.” My father died after complications ...

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The stethoscope. Nothings says “I’m a doctor” more than the stethoscope in a pocket or draped around the neck. Forty-five years ago when I got my first one, a gift from my physician-father, the former was more common. Then we were more likely to wear coats — white coats or suit coats — and pockets were available. I had suit coats in which the lining was worn out from the ...

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There are medical honors so rare you don’t even know they exist. When you’re trudging through the slog of PBK/AOA/other — ultimately meaningless — letters, these seem to be the definition of distinction. Just like every other lesson, a patient taught me what real prestige is. Well, it wasn’t entirely that Oslerian, it was the patient’s nephew.* Carl paged me on an ordinary day — a fellow physician, he once saved my ...

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