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Editor's Comments on 'ICU, a Shared House of Rituals'

 , March 02, 2018

The daily practice of medicine, even in the intensive care unit, is a job like most other jobs in which the practitioner is on ‘autopilot’ throughout the week. In “ICU House of Rituals”, the author beautifully captures the banality of life of the busy ICU physician from the moment the alarm goes off to bedtime. Such routine and pattern of behaviors, however, allows the physician to act quickly in a moment’s notice to respond to the vicissitudes of patients’ health in this setting. For the author, meaning is found when routine is disrupted – a patient’s grandson sleeping on a makeshift bed near the entrance to the team room. In this piece, the author invites the grandson to join the routine in this House of Rituals. An alliance forms between the physician and the grandson, and the grandson quickly becomes an invaluable vicarious vital sign for both the author’s patient and, I suspect, the author. When the patient is discharged, our author and the grandson exchange a nod acknowledging the role of the other in the House of Rituals. The next day the waiting room is empty, and the physician experiences a brief moment of loss. Despite banal routines and at times grueling hours, this piece is a poignant reminder of what makes medicine so worthwhile: moments of brief togetherness where reciprocal caring for and ministering to complete strangers occurs.

Joshua Niforatos