COMPASSION IN HEALTHCARE SUMMER 2018 ESSAYS
We're honored to publish the top 5 essays in Intima's Summer 2018 Compassion in Healthcare Essay Contest, done in partnership with the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare.
In an era of increasingly complex medicine, it can be easy to lose sight of the human connection that forms the foundation of the patient-caregiver relationship. Central to it is the concept of compassion, a multifaceted force that encompasses empathy, kindness, understanding, giving and advocacy.
The founder of the Schwartz Center, Ken Schwartz, wrote after a harrowing and ultimately fatal 10-month battle with lung cancer: “I have been the recipient of an extraordinary array of human and humane responses to my plight. These acts of kindness – the simple human touch from my caregivers – have made the unbearable bearable."
Our essay contest focused on the theme of compassion in healthcare. We received 80 essays in total, all extraordinary in how they tapped into the idea of compassion and brought meaning to the ways it affects the clinical encounter. We applaud the effort and reflection brought to bear on the topic by all those who sent in their work. Intima's Editorial Board narrowed down the submissions with our judge, Dr. Haider Warraich, author of Modern Death: How Healthcare Changed End of Life.
We invite you to read these essays and share them with others. Click on the titles to read them on-line or to print out copies.
Top Essay: "Vicious" by Timothy Cunningham
This stunning story recounts a telling moment in the world of a nurse, handling the daily work of a caregiver while managing an entire clinic but also providing support to the physicians and managing the care of a patient. "The author tells the tale of a clinician who can still pause and focus on the patient right in front of them, rather than being overwhelmed by the world of horror they find themselves in," said Dr. Warraich. "Within the chaos of a human-made calamity, in the flooded rice fields of Bangladesh, the story shows how humanity can flourish. A story that is equal parts foreign and familiar, equal parts expansive and intimate."
Second Place: "A Letter to My Younger Self" by Candice Kim
Dr. Warraich commented about this epistolary essay: "In this story, a physician finds the inspiration for her compassion in her own trauma, and embarks on a journey of empathy that reaches its zenith when that empathy is turned inwards. A story of strength yielding to vulnerability and vulnerability leading back to strength."
Third Place: "Curtis Prout, MD, Morale Doctor" by Julia C. Spring
"Curtis Prout, MD, Morale Doctor" is a story that reaches for the heart of what can make the physician-patient relationship special," according to Dr. Warraich. "The author cuts through the at-times inane rituals of medicine to see them for what they really are and can be, and what a caring, thoughtful and present physician can do for their patients, long after they have left their bedside."
Honorable Mention: "When the Screen Falls Away" by Michael Rizzo
Our editorial board was particularly vocal about this essay. Notes included this observation from an editor: "Refreshingly candid and honest; almost confessional. 'When the Screen Falls Away' focuses on a specific and powerful instance, narrowly avoids melodrama, and ends with a rousing vow—to be compassionate to patients, to fellow providers, and to self. Excellent work." One reader said: "A strong voice; honest and real," while another commented, "I love this piece. The story unfolded slowly and interestingly and the end was so heartfelt. I also loved the reflection on what the student-doctor took away from the experience."
Honorable Mention: "Anguish" by Cynthia McNamara
Certain pieces hit a strong chord with our mission. "Anguish" was one, noted an editor: "Not only a strong piece, but it seems to ring exactly to my sense of what the Intima is all about. A very honest and vivid portrayal of a very grave situation." Another commented: "I usually don't love overly dramatic titles and I admit I approached this one with skepticism. But this essay is so carefully paced, the situation and the emotional 'anguish' meticulously drawn that the drama felt real, not manufactured." The global reach of it was also underscored: "The international aspect of the piece is compelling. This is touching, emotionally accessible and feels genuine. The technical language lends itself to the broader context of the provider describing her vast professional experience and still feeling helpless or inadequate in the situation."