Words matter and compassion matters

Words matter and compassion matters. I’ve shared before that health care workers have difficult jobs and that’s because we experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows both with and through our patients.

Here’s an example and a story that you might already be familiar with.

An emergency room doctor at a New York Hospital has made an impression on millions after a letter he wrote to the family of a deceased patient was posted on the Internet. The letter went viral.

The letter was first published on Reddit by the son of the deceased woman, who died of breast cancer in December 2012. Here’s a re-write of the letter:

Dear Mr. XXXX,

I am the Emergency Medicine physician who treated your wife Mrs XXX last Sunday in the Emergency Department at XXX Hospital. I learned only yesterday about her passing away and wanted to write to you to express my sadness. In my twenty years as a doctor in the Emergency Room, I have never written to a patient or a family member, as our encounters are typically hurried and do not always allow for more personal interaction.

However, in your case, I felt a special connection to your wife XXX, who was so engaging and cheerful in spite of her illness and trouble breathing. I was also touched by the fact that you seemed to be a very loving couple. You were highly supportive of her, asking the right questions with calm, care and concern. From my experience as a physician, I find that the love and support of a spouse or a family member is the most soothing gift, bringing peace and serenity to those critically ill.

I am sorry for your loss and I hope you can find comfort in the memory of your wife’s great spirit and of your loving bond. My heartfelt condolences go out to you and your family.


Here’s the original, you can “click” on the pic for a better view:

ED letter

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Executive Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. At GVMH we care for our families, friends and neighbors. We're committed to providing the safest, friendliest and most compassionate care to all we serve.
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