The New York Times recently published an article about how quintessential white coats and billowing gowns characterize doctors and patients. Not all doctors wear those coats, but physicians that do often only change their coats every few weeks, giving garments plenty of time to harbor bacteria. The bacteria then comes into contact with patients. Some hospitals have followed the example of Britain and outlawed the white coats, but others keep them on, if only for the convenience of having pockets.
Wallis Annenberg Hall at University of Southern California
Recently this blog featured an article on the importance of empathy in healthcare clinicians: Nurse Warmth and Doctor Giggles. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that empathy is an increasingly necessary skill for healthcare leaders as well. USC’s Ernest J. Wilson III describes his recent research and provides salient definitions in his Fortune article on the five skills executives need:
A few years ago I had my first trip to the ER. In 39 years I’d managed to not need emergency care myself. Sure, I’d been to the ER with others. I’d picked glass out of my friend’s hair while we waited that time she walked through a plate glass door, paced the floor when my brother was admitted for a shocking diagnosis, and spent Thanksgiving in the hospital with a friend diagnosed with a rare disease. Those experiences had been mostly positive, setting me up to expect good, competent care. I’ve even worked in healthcare human resources and later in risk management so I have some experience from within the system. However, that also means I’ve seen the fallout when things go wrong. All these experiences came to mind as I sat bleeding in the ER.
I live in a rural area, one without a hospital. I’d travelled a little over an hour to get to the ER after waiting a few hours to decide to go at all. In my mind, I was still wondering if I should be there. Earlier that day I’d used a four-inch razor blade to somehow slice my left index finger to the bone. I was embarrassed. The gaping wound wouldn’t stop bleeding so at the urging of my better half I broke down and agreed to go to the hospital for stitches. My first question for the triage nurse that examined my wound: “Should I really be here? I wasn’t being silly, was I? I do need stitches, right?”
One of the most popular tools in public health is the “myth-versus-fact” brochure. Government agencies and nonprofits, from CDC to American Red Cross, frequently use this tool to combat misinformation on all manner of health topics including vaccination, fluoridated water, first-aid remedies, and suicide prevention. Myth-versus-fact is also a popular narrative device among journalists who value it for its seemingly balanced airing of both sides of a controversy, and for its ability to hook the reader through dramatic, head-to-head conflict. Engaging our rational and emotional faculties alike, the myth-versus-fact format has obvious appeal... Obvious, and apparently all wrong.