Tag: miscommunication

Ria Pal Ria Pal (7 Posts)

Editor-in-Chief and Former Medical Student Editor (2016)

University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry


Ria is a Class of 2018 medical student. She graduated from the University of Rochester with a BS in neuroscience. Her interests include human behavior, social justice work, art, public health, and mnemonics.




A Case for Inclusive Language

“And do you have a husband at home?” “A wife, actually.” “Oh, excuse me. And how long have you been with your mate?” the physician answered. He was unflustered and looked expectantly at the female standardized patient sitting across from him. For the remainder of the interview, when it came up again briefly, the physician referred to the patient’s wife as her mate.

Lost in Translation

In the rest of the house, the noise of the party is deafening: the clink of glasses, the sizzle of burgers on the grill, the excited cries of relatives reunited after long absences. But in the bright light of the kitchen, Mark is talking to me without sound. He presses his right hand over his left then moves up its length, separating his thumb from the rest of his fingers as he goes replicating the open and shut motions of a jaw. “This is the sign for cancer,” he says.

Clinical Culture Shock: Low Health Literacy as a Barrier to Effective Communication

On a Saturday morning at one of our local safety net clinics, where third-year medical students see patients independently and then present to the supervising attending, a man in his 60s arrived to talk about some lab results he had received and what they meant. This man, Mr. S, had many medical problems, including hypertension, COPD, chronic kidney disease and newly diagnosed diabetes. He came to the office that day wanting to know why he had …

A Patient in Denial: Is the System at Fault?

I’ve come to realize having an automatic word filter is one of my greatest blessings. It becomes quite useful when, in the middle of rounds, a patient’s single, monosyllabic response inspires such a flurry of mismatched curse words that only a properly formed filter can save my dignity. What exactly did this patient say that stunned me so violently? My attending had asked him a straightforward, albeit grim, question. “Do you know you have cancer?” …

Communication Breakdown: The Art in Medicine

I walk around, wide-eyed yet confused. It seems so different. I always thought I was too objective for my art friends and too subjective for my science friends. But was that really an accurate reflection of my own personality? Medicine is about reductionism, objectivity and straightforwardness. In medical school, I’m learning a method of communication in which empathy is taught as a route to finding out more about a patient; it’s conveniently called the patient-centered …

I Don’t Know How to Tell You This…

“My rheumatologist was the one who told me I have cancer because for nine months we thought my back pain was due to a type of arthritis. He felt really bad about it and when he called me to tell me the diagnosis, he started crying on the phone.” A student in my second-year medical school class says this when we are in the big lecture hall for a class presentation on how to give …

Patient Autonomy: A Medical Student’s Experience as a Patient

Ms. Romero is an otherwise healthy medical student who was transferred to the MICU with acute liver failure; isoniazid toxicity. Crystal had a positive PPD screening, negative chest x-ray and started therapy for potential LTBI. After seven weeks the patient felt fatigued, anorexic, jaundiced, RUQ abdominal pain, and was found to have elevated LFT’s & INR. She was originally admitted to INOVA for observation, but was transferred to Medstar Georgetown University Hospital MICU and worked …

The Journey Down the Medical Rabbit Hole

Pursuing a career in health care has created opportunities I could have never imagined possible, welcomed or not. The bond a physician has with his patient is not something that can be recreated in any other field. Prior to medical school, I knew I would be exposed to situations and learn the intricate privacies that most people do not have the blessing to learn. But of course I could have never predicted how deep the …

Poor Communication in Multidisciplinary Teams Harms Patient Safety: An Experience on the Wards

Location: Surgery inpatient floor Time: 6:00 a.m. Surgery morning rounds began: “Ms. A, your MRI shows you have colorectal cancer, so we plan to take you to the OR for surgery tomorrow. Alright, see you later,” said my surgery attending, who rushed out of Ms. A’s room right after he abruptly dropped this shocking news. Inside the room, Ms. A, a fragile, bony 75-year-old lady, was laying on her bed with her eyes full of …

Trust: Half the Battle in Effective Health Care Delivery

It was a sunny and cloudless September day, the weather still warm enough for T-shirts and shorts. Sitting by a round table decorated with poster board and flyers, I was providing mental health awareness and education at a health fair. The site was sandwiched between the bustling highways south of downtown Chicago and the Chicago River — the outskirts of Chinatown. All around me crowded small storefronts and narrow roads, a sharp contrast to the …

CMO: Comfort Measures Only, Not Morphine Drip Only

I was on my internal medicine clerkship on an inpatient general medicine service at a major academic medical center. It was another long day and our team, from the interns to the attending, was running low on energy. As we entered late afternoon, we received a page for the transfer of a new patient to our service. As the intern read aloud “CMO” — comfort measures only–the team breathed out a sigh of relief and …

Patient Safety on the Rocks: Reflections from the 2012 Telluride Patient Safety Roundtable

Rugged yet breathtakingly subtle, the backdrop of Telluride, Colorado was a boon for our group of medical students to dissect the obstacles we encounter to safely care for our patients. The setting was the 2012 Telluride Patient Safety Roundtable. I, along with nearly 20 other medical students and leaders from prominent patient safety and health care quality organizations, convened to become better advocates for patient safety. This innovative roundtable, in its eighth iteration, sought to immerse upcoming medical professionals in discussions …

Dacia Russell Dacia Russell (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer Emeritus

Ohio State University College of Medicine


Dacia Russell is a Class of 2015 medical student at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. She comes to medical school with a broad-based background in legal policy and community development. Dacia graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a degree in chemistry and a French language citation.

Since college, she has worked in economic development, health policy and law. Dacia earned a law degree at Stanford Law School and her legal training has included an externship at the United States Department of State in the Law Enforcement and Intelligence Division of the Office of the Legal Adviser. She is currently a member of the bar in New York.

Dacia intends to use her advocacy training to advance public policy aimed at improving patient safety and health care delivery. Dacia plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine and health administration.