The Culture of Healers

Lately I am fascinated with the culture of Doctors, nurses…healers. Years ago (we won’t talk about how many) when I was 17, I took an EMT class. I turned 18 by the time the class ended and was able to take the test and become an EMT. I loved the class. I love medicine.

Working on the ambulance (which I did for about two years) however was a different experience. I was very uncomfortable with it. When I was under pressure (and being on an ambulance IS pressure!) it seemed that everything I had learned evaporated from my brain and I was left clueless, helpless, and hopeless. In my own defense, when I turned in my “two week notice” and explained this concern to my boss he encouraged me to stay and said he had no complaints from my partners. Whew!

Still that was not the only problem. I also found out that I am rather shy about touching strangers. Definately a problem for an EMT. The biggest problem though was the emotional attachment. I wanted to take everyone home with me, and when we lost one…that was too much. An EMT certification needs to be renewed every two years. When my two years was up, I didn’t renew.

The company I worked with did transports as well as emergency calls, so we did a lot of transports for people to and from radiation treatments and from the hospital to the nursing home etc.

There was one teenage boy who had cancer and every day he needed to be transported for some treatment. I remember the first time I saw him lying there in bed, he had to have been 6 ft tall, and I thought, “oh this boy needs to be playing basketball, not lying in a hospital bed.” We were all rejoyced with him as he began to get his strength back and the nurses put up a sign “speed limit 1 mph” trying to urge him not to overdue it. Eventually he left Tucson, where I worked and returned to his home town.

One day, we had a transport to the town where this boy lived. We dropped off our patient at the hospital there and as we were getting ready to leave I saw this boy’s family. I was happy to see them again, and rushed over. I asked them how he was doing, without speaking they took me to his room, where he lay in bed. He was in a coma. I went to his bedside and held his hand. I started crying; I couldn’t help it. I am crying now as I type this. His family came over and hugged me and we wept together.

This and other experiences helped me decide that the medical field was not the place I wanted to be. I am still fascinated with medicine, but like a tourist on safari for me it is better observed from a distance.

So I am curious what motivates people to work in the medical profession? In search of answers to these questions, I turned to books (by now you are not surprised at that, right?) I am still pondering, but for now I wanted to share a couple books I have found helpful and interesting.

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor is a fascinating memoir by a brain scientist who had a stroke and recovered. Your initial thought might be that that sounds boring, but trust me it isn’t. If you look up the book at, they have a link to an excerpt of her giving a presentation about her experience. Just watch it and you will see that she is not boring at all. Highly recommended!

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman This book really answers some of my “doctor culture” questions and his style of writing is very enjoyable. As a patient, I found it a little eye opening and a little disconcerting. Definately a worthwhile read.

Anatomy of Hope by Jerome Groopman I like this one better than his other book and I would call this a “must read”. It was uplifting and inspiring. It gave me much to think about.

On Call: A Doctor’s Days and Nights in Residency by Emily R. Transue I just picked this one up from the library, so I haven’t read it yet. Though if the dust jacket is a reliable indicator, this book may have more answers to my questions. At any rate it looks interesting.

Since I am really getting interested in memoirs, I turned to blogs. Here are my two favorite “doctor” blogs: I love the variety in this blog. The posts cover a wide range of topics, ranging from medicine, family, to rants about the neighborhood slum lord. It is very well written and engaging. Funny too, which is always a nice breath of air. My only complaint is that it is too short. I hope that there will be more posts forthcoming. This blog is by a 67 year old, some what cantankerous old doctor in India. Of course, it speaks to me in two ways. I love the posts about his patients, but I also really love the cultural experience his experience being in another country. You know he has his patients keep their medical charts with them, and bring them when they come in? He does a lot of house calls to, can you imagine?


  1. I read Emily Transue’s book and it was good. I liked her book-Patient by Patient better. She is a different kind of doctor than what I’ve encountered in before. She likes to talk to patients.

  2. Thanks Kara, I’ll put that on my “must read” list. I’m always looking for a good book!I have been blessed to find a couple doctors that like to talk to patients, but you are right they seem rare.

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