Our Med Bag

Hello, and welcome to The Med Bag, a blog created for sharing health and medical stories from people from all walks of life,

To contact The Med Bag email us at: medbag2018@gmail.com


Latest Posts from The Med Bag:

Women Who Inspire: Anandibai Joshi

The path for women physicians hasn't been easy. For the longest time we were considered inferior to our male counterparts. But we have come a long way. According to a recent study it was found that patients cared for by women doctors  have a lower mortality rate. They tend to live longer and fare better. Today on Women's Day I'd like to narrate the story of a brave woman who led the way-- Dr. Anandibai Joshi. Dr. Anandibai Joshi (1865-1887) Indian women pioneered many things not just in India but also in the west becoming a source of inspiration for women and women’s movement across the world. Early in my residency and sometimes even now, I'm made to perceive that I'm not good enough to ...
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The Kind of Nurse I am

“What kind of nurse are you?” I was asked this by the errant wife of a patient I was caring for on a step down cardiac unit last year. The patient had warned me about her personality prior to her arrival to visit him. She was angry the doctor had decided to discharge him with a low grade temperature. Honestly it was the tone of her voice that took me by astonishment than anything else. I shortly turned tearful as I could not reach the hospitalist in charge of his care. My manager was off and even if she was around I doubt I would get much support from her. I had resigned, giving my almost three weeks notice a few days before. I was ...
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When is a Little Knowledge a Good Thing?

In the summer of 2016 in seemingly good health, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia through a routine blood test and subsequent bone marrow biopsy.  In 48 hours, I went from a carefree existence to a week-long, 24/7 chemotherapy drip and a 5 ½ week hospital stay. Although my doctors described my treatment plan, in retrospect it’s remarkable how little I learned about my disease.  This cancer is not “staged,” because it is so unpredictable, and there were no discussions of long-term prognosis, survival rates, or other such matters.  For my part, I made a conscious decision not to surf the internet collecting all sorts of dubious, unverifiable information about my disease. Instead, I simply trusted my doctors as we moved through my initial ...
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On Patients and Emotional Labor

Given my recent posts on the emotional labor of doctors and nurses, it only seems fair to turn the lens on myself and ponder how I experienced and expressed a variety of emotions throughout my treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. In the early stages of my care, I sought to be a “good patient” and cultivate positive relationships with my doctors and nurses.  I was seeking to transform routine, clinical encounters into more human and humane interactions. But it was also a strategic move on my part to insure I would receive the best possible care.  While patients’ demeanor should not affect their quality of care, nurses and doctors are also people with their own emotional states.  Getting on their good side seemed like a ...
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On Nurses and Emotional Labor

My last post described how doctors appear to rely on a specific feeling norm in managing and displaying emotional states in relation to their patients. The pattern I saw in my own care was initial emotional distance from doctors that gave way to greater emotional availability only when my prognosis significantly improved. In this post, I offer some speculations about the differences between doctors and nurses when it comes to emotional labor. Whereas doctors may be permitted an initial clinical detachment from their patients, nurses are socialized to be more explicitly caring in their interactions with patients.  This distinction between the emotional distance of doctors and emotional availability of nurses is furthered reinforced by the gender division of labor that leads to male predominance among ...
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My Time in Prison.. as a Physician Assistant

Several years ago I took the position of physician assistant at the maximum security unit of the Santa Fe (New Mexico) State Penitentiary. I remember all too well my first entry into the prison. When the guard (or correctional officer, shortened to CO) accompanying me clanged the steel door shut behind me, closing me in, I realized what the inmates there must have felt when they first arrived. The sound had a finality to it. Unless the inmate had to be taken to the Santa Fe hospital, in all likelihood he was there for the rest of his days. I, on the other hand, could leave at the end of my shift and enjoy all my freedoms. Providing medical treatment to dangerous prison inmates is ...
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On Doctors and Emotional Labor

A recent post on this site about stress among health care providers reminded me of some recent work in my discipline on the sociology of emotions. Research in this area has shown how occupations often include “feeling norms” about how practitioners should manage and display appropriate emotional states as part of their job. During my prolonged treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, I witnessed one such “feeling norm” on the part of several of my doctors. In the early stages of my treatment, I received induction chemotherapy and was exploring my options for further treatment, including a stem cell transplant. During this time, I met with several oncologists. They were professional, clinical and informative in our interactions, but they also maintained emotional distance or neutrality. This ...
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Facing Chemotherapy 3: Your Own Worst Enemy

Chemotherapy kills fast growing cells and hence can be effective against cancer.  But it does not discriminate between healthy and malignant cells.  Hence, the trade-off for killing cancer cells is killing fast-growing, healthy cells as well. The most serious side effect may be chemotherapy’s impact on the immune system. It drives down white and red blood cell counts as well as platelets. Low platelets can lead to unusual bleeding and low red blood cell counts can bring fatigue. Perhaps most important, low white blood cell counts leave us vulnerable to infectious agents we might normally resist and never even notice. To counter this heightened susceptibility to infection, patients receiving chemotherapy must take various precautions to minimize their exposure to infection. Wearing masks, washing hands, limiting ...
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The Second Victim

In May of 2018, I received some tragic news from a coworker of mine that still works on my old unit. Our coworker Mary Jane was found dead. Mary Jane was a second career nurse that struggled to keep up her morale at times working in our busy step down unit. We all had our moments of self-doubt and stress from working with complex patients and their families. The news was horrifying for several reasons. Primarily because Mary Jane’s situation is not the first time a healthcare provider has taken their life due to personal and professional stressors. Level of experience does not always deter medical professionals from taking such a drastic step. Mary Jane had a family that loved her and had a whole ...
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Facing Chemotherapy 2:Wait for it

When I received my first round of chemotherapy, I anticipated some nasty side effects.  What I didn’t realize, however, is that they take a while to show up. This led to a false sense of confidence about how well I was weathering my treatment. My stereotype about side effects was evident in a question to my nurse as I was about to receive my first chemo infusion. I asked if I couldn’t get to the bathroom on time, where do I throw up? She smiled and said that was unlikely due to the premeds they used to control nausea.  What she didn’t say is that such side effects would take some time to appear. When I still felt fine a week after my treatment concluded, ...
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