Rx for all: caring communication


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“I'm just so sorry this happened to you,” said Dr. Sarah Flannery. She meant the freak accident which brought me to the Lenox Hill Hospital emergency room. Details later, but this column is about caring communication, and how much it's needed in the medical profession and beyond.

No, it wasn't a fall. I was sitting on a kitchen step stool when a heavy cast-iron skillet fell from its spot on a peg board hook — right onto my right leg. Yi-i-i-i-! Excessive bruising and swelling sent me to Urgent Care (what a much-needed city resource), and from there I was sent to the ER.

Dr. Flannery had the report, of course, before her compassionate greeting, with its much appreciated understanding of my fears, pain and distress at being back in an ER again.

No broken bones, thankfully, but the blood thinner link landed me in the hospital after the usual many hours in the ER. No doubt some of you know how communication matters during those long, long waits — especially for those alone without family or other advocates. But some patients and/or their advocates sometimes look out for patients who are alone. I was loaned a phone that worked, along with some encouraging words.

Surely caring communication from doctors and nurses needs to be stressed. With so many patients to see, maybe what we need is more medical personnel, and not more new medical buildings, which replace the much-needed the neighborhood kind. Indeed, the neighborhoods are distressed by the expansion plans of both Lenox Hill and Weill Cornell Medical Center. And I can think of no better example of of the kind of people we need in our hospitals than Dr. Sarah Flannery.

In time for Valentine's Day, please consider some of this column's caring communication ideas. Consider the shy, and those who are not so “easily verbal,” for example, and see that they are not left out. Everything really depends on the talk being shared. A friend who had jury duty recently reports how the aggressively verbal jury members tried to take over the deliberations, Thankfully, this one angry jury member didn't let that happen.

Just and democratic communication couldn't be more essential. But to stay with the caring theme, let's remember the words of communication expert and author, Sherod Miller, in a Jane Brody interview: “Communication is the way relationships are created, maintained and destroyed ... to be heard and understood is central to any ongoing relationship — husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee, friends, siblings, you name it.” Miller's book, “Straight Talk: A New Way to Get Closer to Others” needs a mighty revival.

And hey, maybe so do some related thoughts from a previous column of mine titled “Sympathize, Don't Analyze.” which suggests, no, commands, by golly: “When someone says they feel rotten, don't pile on the advice or regale them with tales of your own, or someone else's travails. Don't say 'Everyone has problems,' or 'It could be worse.' Meet a person where they are — this and other 1970s human potential directives need a mighty revival. Now, we sure don't mean indulge complainers who don't listen to the complaints of others. Caring communication also means reprimands.”

But enough from me already — let's hear it from you. Along with the Dr. Flannerys' message, that is what Valentine's Day is very much about — sharing talk — the kind that is caring.





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