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A Piece of My Mind
April 5, 2016

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

Author Affiliations
  • 1The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
JAMA. 2016;315(13):1337-1338. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.18910

Until my brother was involved in a highway motor vehicle crash with a severe brain injury, I believed that my cheery countenance and words of encouragement were welcomed by families and magically tempered by their own healthy dose of cynicism. Instead, I have realized this is far from the actual reality, and I now regret my optimistic but frequently flippant response that “He will be okay.”

My parents, who have no medical background, quickly grew to like and appreciate the nursing staff, not unlike many family members braving the intimidating world of the intensive care unit. They valued their ability to easily communicate, to advocate for my brother, to change IVs and hang medicine after medicine, and to keep his wounds freshly dressed and his hair trimmed. My parents were lost in the nuanced discussions among attending physicians and residents on rounds and grew to hate the cursory 5:30 am explanations. For each of us, these sentiments likely resonate with our own ICU experience as physicians.

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