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A Piece of My Mind |

One Last Teaching Moment

H. Esterbrook Longmaid, MD
JAMA. 2013;309(16):1695. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.1803.
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Critical conversations can arise at any moment in care settings. How we respond can powerfully affect the patient's perception of being heard and supported and may influence the patient's capacity to trust us. Our capacity to respond, often with little time to reflect, prepare, and anticipate the interaction, is governed not by whether we have memorized a script designed to show caring or compassion, but our ability to acknowledge and address, by both verbal and nonverbal means, the patient's vulnerability and need for support, even if we cannot offer any other hope than our presence. We can only do this if we are truly able to acknowledge, access, and engage the human values that are universally needed in such settings1: a genuine desire to care and comfort, to respect, to support, and to validate the patient's circumstances and experience. As physicians, we may have difficulty accessing some of these, as to do so requires us to acknowledge and address our own vulnerability and sense of helplessness in such conversations.

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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