Learning from the patient

Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

The New York Times shares the touching story of a retired nurse with terminal pancreatic cancer who made the nursing program at her alma mater an offer they couldn’t refuse: to use the final days of her life to educate their students.  The school embraced this as an opportunity to teach beyond textbooks, mannequins and short hospital rotations.  Ms. Keochareon said she wanted them to have a chance to see the situation from the patient’s point of view.

I think she gave them a wonderful gift, but I was troubled that talking to a patient about her reality was considered so extraordinary.  When I attended a nursing conference last fall, the idea of learning from the patient experience was much discussed and my explanation of medical anthropology was greeted with comments like, “That’s the sort of perspective we need!”  Perhaps the tide will start to turn.

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3 thoughts on “Learning from the patient

  1. In the field of Medical Anthro the new perspective concerning health and healing has become of course is to find curing treatments for the illness or disease of the body, but a new importance has been placed on also working to treat and understand the social body as well. I found this read very interesting. It does line up well with the other course material that we are reading.

    Diagnosis and treatment are of course important in the bio-medial realm of this humanistic science but understanding the human condition is also paramount. Learning from what the patient is feeling and how the patient understands their illness/disease will give great insight on both these bodies of focus for the field. Based on this reading and others from the Medical Anthropology course at The Oakland University, I believe that understanding the relationship between the two “bodies” has become the hallmark of engaged medical anthropology.

  2. Wow… Mrs. Keochareon was beautiful. Mind you I can only go off the article, but her calm/collected attitude had moved me. I really want to know what type of person she was in life. What hardships led her to accept death? It took me about 6 close deaths when I was young for me to start looking at death in a different light. It was a few more till I fully embraced the concept of birth and death. The fact that she gave those two students the opportunity to experience the raw emotions that come from a human being dying slowly was a gracious act. I wish more people can have the same strength of character when their time comes.

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