Every Friday, thousands of readers smile when they see an e-mail from Pulse: voices from the heart of medicine in their in-box. Pulse is a free, online magazine that publishes riveting, often moving, sometimes controversial, and occasionally hilarious first-person stories and poems about medicine. (Click on “hilarious” for a story that will astound you, and, if you share my sense of humor, make you laugh. )
All of these tales are true, and the authenticity of the writers’ voices helps explain their power. Written by patients and doctors, nurses, caregivers, and students, these unblinkingly honest stories and poems bear witness to the suffering that patients endure, and to the compassion of caregivers — as well as their doubts.
Some of My Favorites
Long-time readers may remember poems and stories from Pulse that I have cross-posted in the past.
— “Useless (But Needed), A Doctor’s Constant Companion” — one of my favorites
— “First Do No Harm,” a story about how we train doctors that drew thoughtful and provocative comments from both doctors and nurses;
— “Broken”– a controversial story about what happens when a trauma surgeon overrules an obstetrical resident. The question: should they have tried to save the baby or the mother? Could either be saved?
A Stairwell Conversation, And a Unique Magazine is Born
Pulse founder Paul Gross, practices family medicine at Montefiore hospital in the Bronx, New York. He recalls how Pulse was conceived:
“What would it be like, I wondered, if there were a magazine that told about health care the way it really is? What if patients and health professionals alike got to tell their stories?
“Around the same time, I had a stairwell conversation with a hospital director of nursing. It stopped me short. ‘For the first time in my long career,’ she said, ‘I’m ashamed to be in this business.’
“To me, this sounded like a cry for help; it sounded like a system in crisis,” Gross adds. “And yet, for the most part, popular magazines and medical journals seemed oblivious.
“It occurred to me that if we found a way to share our stories—the difficult moments along with the glorious ones—perhaps we could jump-start a national conversation about health care. Maybe this exchange could lead us toward a better health system.”