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Editor's Commentary on 'Footsteps'

 , July 24, 2015

While generally gratifying and fulfilling, medicine sometimes can be emotional, traumatic, or jarring. We see one such example in "Footsteps," when the "save a life cacophony" - the medical resuscitation team - comes rushing by, hoping to revive a crashing patient. The tension builds as we hear the nurse's frantic pleading to Angela, but only eerie silence from the patient.

How do we as healthcare providers deal with these types of challenging situations? It certainly is important to have empathy for patients and families and to support them as best as we can through their difficult times. Yet if we allow ourselves to feel too much - to be hyper-empathic - we risk losing ourselves in the process. What then, is the right balance? How can we be empathic and caring for our patients in the moment but also be able to maintain our center, to affirm "our own existence" at the end of the day? This question does not beget a simple answer, but Wald's poem gives us a place to start, by grounding ourselves in a community of supportive friends and family, with whom we can "make dinner,...laugh,...[and] make love."

Rachel Elkin