How to See the Forest and the Trees

Admissions, progress notes, discharge summaries, scribbled lab values, efficient rounds, and immaculately updated cross-cover lists. Intern year is stuffed with documentation and data. It doesn’t take long to feel that’s all that matters. However, behind the hypokalemia and midnight Tylenol orders are people and stories. Each piece of objective data matters, but each is like an ornament on a tree. Without the underlying context, they’re all so many sparkling baubles without substance and form. We spend a lot of time talking about humanism in medicine as if it were a luxury or a virtue and not an essential clinical skill. The best attending physicians I’ve met this year are both vast repositories of data and good storytellers – people who can bring the numbers and the patient into focus at the same time. This project documents two formative moments that helped me learn how to be a better clinician during this busy, overwhelming year. – Dr. Tera Cushman

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