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When overwhelmed by health policy, take the Pulse of the profession

August 8, 2009 |  7:13 am

PenThere's healthcare, with an emphasis on policy, and there's healthcare with an emphasis on personal. The magazine Pulse offers a course in the latter, reminding us of the reason for the current national discussions, debates and, sometimes, vitriol.

Described as "voices from the heart of medicine," the new online magazine is a collection of poems and stories from doctors, nurses, social workers, patients, students ... you get the idea.

Here's what its editor, Dr. Paul Gross, has to say. He's recounting a conversation with a hospital director of nursing who says that, for the first time, she's ashamed of the business:

"To me, this sounded like a cry for help; it sounded like a system in crisis. And yet, for the most part, popular magazines and medical journals seemed oblivious.

It occurred to me that if we found a way to share our stories — the difficult moments along with the glorious ones — perhaps we could jump-start a national conversation about health care. Maybe this exchange could lead us toward a better health system.

Around the country, my colleagues and friends — in and out of medicine — thought this was a good idea. Many wanted to participate. And now, several years later, we have come together to launch Pulse — voices from the heart of medicine."

* Here's an excerpt from the short story "Millie," by a family physician in New York:

"You know I have kids that are older than you?" were her first words.

"I wasn't sure if she was complimenting me on my youthful looks or expressing uneasiness at having me as her doctor. I smiled, blushed, quickly refilled her prescription and asked her to follow up.

"Over time, I grew quite fond of Millie; seeing her name on the schedule always sparked feelings of pleasant anticipation. She, for her part, somehow grew to trust me, and the health-center staff learned not to argue when she insisted on seeing only "my doctor." At each visit she would share more of her story: how hard she'd struggled for much of her life, raising three children as a single mother with little support and less money; how much she liked her cigarettes and the occasional drink."

* And the beginning of the poem "Cure," by a nurse in Washington, D.C.:

"In Latin it means care,
conjures priests and temples
the laying on of hands
sacred pilgrimage
sacrifice
the sickbed
invalid and
solemn attendants."

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

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