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June 2, 2016

     Today I had a patient in clinic who sat down, and before I could introduce myself, she began tapping both of her knees and doing motions on her chest from her belly button up to her throat and saying, "Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah!" I looked at my translator in confusion, wondering if this was a Khmer word I had not learned yet. My translator said that the woman had not been able to speak from birth, and I realized the woman was more than likely deaf and had never learned a form of sign language. I was instantly a bit panicked because I wasn't sure how I was going to communicate with this woman to figure out what medical issues she had and what I could treat her with. Because of the woman's tapping and motions, I was pretty sure she had osteoarthritis and reflux, but I didn't know how to communicate my treatment plan. Thankfully, the awesome nursing student working with me, Jabria, saved the day and was able to do motions to get the patient to understand. It is in moments like this at clinic where I am reminded of two things: how blessed we are in America and how important teamwork is. 


     Treating this patient pulled at my heart strings because I know that had she been born in the U.S., she may have been able to get a cochlear implant or if not, then she would have learned sign language and had a way to communicate. Can you imagine living your whole life not being able to communicate your thoughts and feelings and ideas with others around you? Being an extrovert, the thought breaks my heart. I don't know why we were blessed to be born in a place where we are not faced with a situation such as this. I pray we never forget how truly blessed we are. 


     This situation was one example of how patient care is bettered by a team approach to medicine. I could have made ten treatment plans for this patient, but without Jabria, I would have never been able to communicate it to my patient. And if the patient doesn't understand the treatment plan, the chances that they will be compliant with it are very slim. This has taught me that every person brings different skills, knowledge, and talents to the table, and it is only in the utilization of all of these from every team member that the patient receives the utmost care.


Reneé Franklin, Medical Student

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