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A Piece of My Mind
November 9, 2011


Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts (

JAMA. 2011;306(18):1960-1961. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1627

The first time I met Annie Wasserman, I knew next to nothing about her. That is, nothing more than the abbreviated patient history on my signout: 85 years old, no known medical history, admitted to the neurology service after suffering a stroke, demented (though pleasantly, has not required Haldol), blood pressure well controlled, awaiting placement.

There was no room for the nuances of Annie's life, the stories behind the faded pictures taped to the wall at the head of her hospital bed. Instead, those two words—awaiting placement—hospital shorthand for awaiting nursing home bed —trumped all in the mind of this busy medical resident on his first day on the wards, effectively derailing any questions and escorting my gaze to the next patient on the signout, a 33-year-old with intractable back pain.

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