From the Wards
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Beyond the Chart

Bright and early, I made my way into the hospital sipping on my coffee in hopes that it would make up for my lack of sleep. This was an ordinary start to a day in my OB/GYN rotation. After pre-rounding, I offered to help the residents with anything they had pending. One of them tasked me with seeing a new consultation in the emergency room (ER) for a pregnant woman who had presented intoxicated. Many things ran through my mind during the seemingly eternal walk from the labor and delivery floor to the emergency room. I would be lying if I said they were all positive. Nonetheless, I entered the patient’s room, as I always do, with a smile on my face, but my heart immediately sank at the sight before me. The patient sat huddled on the hospital bed with wide eyes and a tensed body, as if she was guarding herself from a perceived danger. And glaring at me was a dark bruise surrounding her right eye. The contrast of bruising against her complexion was too obvious to ignore—a silent testament to the violence she had endured.

She confided in me, sharing her story in a voice that, despite the trembles, echoed with courage. She spoke to me about her turbulent relationship, days of fear, nights of coercion, and an addiction that clouded her new reality. In a soft voice she said, “I didn’t even know I was pregnant.” As I listened to her, it was impossible to not feel the gravity of her pain and the difficulty of her situation.

Upon completion of the encounter, I returned to the labor and delivery floor prepared to share the compelling story of this woman to the resident physician. By the time I made it back, morning rounds had already started, so I quietly made my way to the far corner of the room where my fellow medical students and I sat everyday. The rest of the team, consisting of attendings, residents, midwives and nurses, sat around a rectangular table in the center of the room. 

The team finally began discussing the ER consultation. Over all of the medical jargon that filled the room, one of the midwives said, “Great, another pregnant drunkie to add to the list,” with a tone of nonchalance and disgust. The room filled with laughter. A knot formed at the pit of my stomach thinking about how this woman, consumed by fear and marked by a fist, was being referred to as a “pregnant drunkie.” I found myself torn between the moral duty to speak up for this patient and the fear of backlash from my supervisors, an internal battle that is awfully too familiar to us medical students. Not to my surprise, fear won, leaving me with feelings of frustration, helplessness, and guilt.

It was then that the full impact of seemingly harmless banter between colleagues became painfully clear. Behind every chart, every diagnosis and every medical label lies a human being—a person with hopes, fears, dreams, and struggles. Yet, in our rush to categorize and treat, we can easily overlook the humanity of those who trust us with their care.

This experience served as a reminder for me of the weight of our words as medical professionals. It challenged me to confront my own biases and to recognize the dignity and worth of every patient, regardless of their circumstances. Moving forward, I vowed to be intentional in the way I speak about patients, whether it is behind closed doors or not. I pledged to approach each encounter with compassion, listening not just to the spoken words, but also to the silent cries for help. Lastly, I promised to advocate for my patients, speaking up for what is right with courage and confidence.

Daniela Vasquez Daniela Vasquez (1 Posts)

Daniela is a fourth year medical student at Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in Miami, Florida class of 2025. In 2020, she graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Science in biomedical sciences. She enjoys spending time with her family, rollerblading, playing pickle ball, and watching the sunset in her free time. After graduating medical school, Daniela would like to pursue a career in Pediatrics.