What's right in healthcare

Mayo Stonework.jpg

A couple weekends ago, my husband and I made a half-day trip down to Rochester from Minneapolis. The newly warmed air and sunny sky - hopes of spring! - made us long to get out of town and take a drive. You probably know that Rochester, Minnesota is home to the sprawl of Mayo Clinic, the original Mayo Clinic. What we learned on that short excursion is that it is also home to the only Dunkin’ Donuts in the entire state of Minnesota! We paid a visit to both.

The visit to Mayo was only a stroll around a small fraction of its buildings. The picture at the top of this post is of a decorative carving on the outside wall of one of the Clinic’s historic buildings, the Plummer Building, built in 1928. I love that image of the man (probably a physician but not necessarily a physician) curled around the microscope.

The day after that excursion, my mother-in-law went into the emergency room with what we learned was a heart attack. She’s fine now, and home, thanks to the work of the physicians and nurses there. I witnessed such kindness and gentleness from them. Proficiency also.

I work with physicians all the time in my medical writing work. There are a few that I especially admire, and I’ve labeled them in my head as the doctor I would want to go to should I ever develop the disease they treat - although I hope to never develop the diseases they treat and don’t live in their area anyway. The last couple weeks I’ve been pushing through a project with one of these doctors, a doctor that approaches her work with great skill and earnestness. I once heard her say, in response to a question about whether she could make such and such a decision based on a phone call or email from a patient, that she needs to actually touch a patient. I loved that she said that.

There’s another doctor I’ve worked with, also with the label of “physician of choice,” who during a blackout in his city mentioned that he was visiting his hospitalized patients with a flashlight while his colleagues were waiting it out. I wrote about another such doctor nearly 10 years ago here on this blog. I’m thinking also about a doctor who saw my mother this winter when she was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. The doctor heard my father coughing next to her bed and unwrapped the stethoscope from around his neck and took a listen to his lungs. No concern about liability or billing or coding. Such kindness! I’m thinking also of my own primary care doctor who is retiring this spring. I’ve gone to him since he was a young doctor and I was newly graduated from college - but for a couple short bursts due to moves or insurance changes - and I’m so grateful for that continuity and care.

There’s a lot wrong with our health care system, and patients and physicians are all taking a hit. But there’s a lot right with the people working in that system. I just wanted to take a moment to shine the light on that.