Print Email

Editor's Comments on 'What I Wish I’d Said'

 , April 15, 2016

As medical students, we are given more time with our patients on the wards for the opportunity to read, to learn, and to accommodate our budding (and sometimes inefficient) clinical skills. For some patients and families, this time affords us so much more than an academic learning experience: it permits us to forge some of the most important human connections of our lives.

In her open letter to the wife of a former patient - "What I Wish I'd Said" - Janelle Vu, a 4th year at UC Davis School of Medicine, captures how we often become the closest members of the care team, but can also feel hobbled by inexperience. In her piece, all the staff bring heightened dedication to the patient's care, but it's the medical student who is at the bedside first thing in the morning, who the family "greeted by name." It's the medical student who knows the chart so well that it becomes like a familiar story - from the details of the social history to the laboratory values. It is the medical student, too, who wonders whether it's "their place" to be so close, to try to comfort family; we doubt if we are worthy, because, in the narrator's words, "I couldn’t possibly understand your pain."

Janelle's poignant letter portrays the challenges that come with caring deeply for our patients. It will bring meaning and reassurance to trainees who have felt the same way, and who may also regret not having done more, even when they did so much.

Benji Perin