A young woman saw me on my shift today.  In the process of being evaluated for a work related injury, her physician ordered some x-rays.  One of them showed an incidental finding of a lung nodule.  She was told she would need a CT scan to rule out a malignancy.  But, her workman’s compensation doctor wouldn’t order it, since it was not work related.  And she did not have a personal physician.  Anxious, she came to the ER.

Long and short; the chest CT showed a benign, calcified granuloma.  No cancer!  She stood up, breathed a deep sigh of relief…then hugged me!

Now, I do lots of things at work.  Close lacerations, evaluate sick children, treat heart attacks, negotiate with drug seekers, encourage alcoholics, and on and on.  But when I get a hug just for saying, ‘it’s nothing to worry about,’ I feel that I have done something remarkable.

In medicine, we give plenty of bad news.  I diagnosed a brain tumor just a few days ago.  But we also have the gift of giving good news.  And we should relish it.  Furthermore, we should use technology and communication to do it faster and more effectively.

The days of having a CT scan to rule out cancer, then having someone say, ‘I’ll see you in two weeks to go over the results,’ should be long gone.  Back when things weren’t read quickly, back when there was no e-mail, no text-messaging, when computers were slow as molasses, the days when physicians and patients both simply had to wait, it just took longer.  Now, there really aren’t any excuses.  After all, we practitioners often forget that two weeks of uncertainty about cancer, or some other significant illness, can be a real ‘dark night of the soul.’

If it is in your power to 1) discover good news, 2) give good news and 3) give it quickly, by all means do it and enjoy it.

The bad news comes quickly and frequently enough already.

You might get a hug!  You’ll certainly be appreciated.

Edwin

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