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.