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The power of touch in the exam room

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Womens Health News blogger Rachel Walden just wrote a nice entry on the importance of touch during a doctor's appointment. She shares her thoughts on a recent visit to her nurse practioner, and how she walked away feeling as if she hadn't received proper care:

How was my experience incomplete? The lack of a physical exam. A nurse had taken my blood pressure (twice, actually), but never once did my NP actually lay a hand on me, nor was I ever on the exam table. There was no opening to say “aaaaahhhh,” no deep breaths on each side.

...Logically, nothing about the reason I was there suggested a need to listen to my heart or lungs, or to look in my ears, nose, or throat. And yet, I still felt as though something was missing, as though something had been neglected.

Walden goes on to quote a New York internist who calls touch "a crucial part of the doctor-patient relationship that cannot be underestimated," and she discusses Stanford physician/author Abraham Verghese's belief in the power of touch and feel at the bedside. It's comforting, she writes, "to have this absence I felt validated by physicians." Walden concludes:

Perhaps it’s just the habit, the ritual, of those aaaahhhs and deep breaths. It’s observing the proper forms in a way, an opening in which I say, “I will let you into this space of mine, from where we can work on my health.” I can’t explain it in evidence-based scientific terms, but according to [physician Danielle] Ofri, I may not need to - the need for humanization through touch is, perhaps, enough of an explanation for us all.

Previously: Hands on: Abraham Verghese teaches bedside skills
Photo by Subconsci Productions

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