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Editor's Commentary on 'Auscultation'

 , January 31, 2014

This week we publish “Auscultation” by Nishtha Sodhi, MD, an alliterative poem that reflects the dichotomy of monotony and anxiety in the hospital. Vreeb. Tring. Hrrmm. Blip. The noises of the various alarming machines can fade into background noise for hospital staff, much like patients’ stories can begin to blend together after a busy night. But for patients and families in the hospital, they add to the anxiety of illness. They may wonder what the sounds and flashing lights signify, afraid to ask, afraid to get in the way. As a joke, I often tell patients, “The hospital is a terrible place to rest. We have to get you healthy enough to go home so you can get better.” This is said in jest, but carries truth. Anyone who has spent a night in the hospital knows the parade of intrusions: IV occlusion alarms, heart rate monitors, vital signs, neuro checks, housekeeping, rounds, pre-rounds, pre-pre-rounds. Though mostly necessary, each encroachment acts to increase anxiety as patients wait (and hope) to heal. We would do well to keep our ears open to the sounds that the patients hear, while working to help them find a moment of silence.

Bryan Sisk, MD
Deputy Editor, The Living Hand