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A Piece of My Mind
May 13, 1998

Regaining Compassion

Author Affiliations

Edited by Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1998;279(18):1422. doi:10.1001/jama.279.18.1422

Rounds were over—finally—and I was exhausted. I kept reminding myself that every July is the same. The new interns and students were both petrified and striving to make a good impression, which translated into long and sometimes painful bedside rounds.

There was, however, a bright spot, and her name was Kelli. A third-year student assigned to our oncology service as her first rotation, Kelli offered refreshing enthusiasm, charm, and encouragement daily to her patients. But today something was different. She came to me and asked for a few minutes to talk behind closed doors. Almost immediately she began to weep and between sobs she laid her heart before me: "I feel so inadequate. The only thing I have to offer is my compassion. But now I wonder what my words can mean as I look at Sheila. It's all so overwhelming. I'm not sure I can keep doing this."

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