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Monday, July 24, 2017

Experiencing Life, Briefly, Inside a Nursing Home

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New York Times



“When I came in, I was worried about working with older folks because I was afraid I wouldn’t be good at it,” Ms. Murphy said. “Now, if anything, I’m worried I’ll love them too much and it will really hurt to work with folks at the end of their lives.”

there. During her going-away party they presented her with a big card, and shouts of “We love Kristen” were heard throughout.

The program has solidified Ms. Murphy’s desire to work with older people. And the hardest lesson she learned — that for some people, it is better to be in a wheelchair or to have limited mobility — will make her become a better doctor, she said.

“As a doctor, my job is to help patients live the life they want to,” she said. “And if they’re in pain, you have to say ‘That’s O.K. if you want to spend your time in a wheelchair.’

“For me that’s such a different place to be. Because I hate this chair. It still startles me that that’s the choice.”

Ms. Murphy said the care she received at the home was outstanding. But there were things that could use improvement: she did not realize she could ask for things like soda, and she felt that shower bars were too high for someone in a wheelchair. She also told the staff at a debriefing session that families should be included in more activities.

Dr. Phillips of the American Geriatrics Society, which is not involved with this program, said the challenge was to see “how this replicates everywhere else and how enthusiastic medical students are to take this on.”

Another of the 10 students who have gone through the program, William Vogt, spent 10 days last summer in a nursing home at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Augusta, Me. Mr. Vogt, who spent a day wheeling around with petroleum jelly smeared on his glasses and cotton stuck in his ears, said he was particularly struck by the fact that many patients considered the nursing home to be home and the staff “a second family.”

Mr. Vogt said the little things counted, like lowering nameplates so patients could locate their rooms and not putting a remote on top of a television, out of reach.

“There’s a little part of it that works its way into everything I do, from patient interaction and awareness of how I come across to what I say,” said Mr. Vogt, a medical student doing clinical work at a hospital in Watertown, N.Y. “There’s this shift of the humanity of it.

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