Fragile by Hedy S. Wald

This post is part of our collection of “Gold Nuggets” —  our way of alerting the medical community to original artwork, poetry or multimedia that stimulate discussion and reflection.

by Hedy S. Wald, Phd
copied with publisher’s permission from Journal of General Internal Medicine
, Volume 30, Issue 7, pp 1041.

Within the patient’s revelation
your eyes sting with
the peeling onion layers
of a life gone terribly wrong
and you try hard not to cry.

no white-washed white coat tales
for you, soon-to-be doctor,
the trusted one
so you shift foot position,
bow your head,
remain silent, pausing
in the offered space.

the precise coding for
the yuck of a life narrative
escapes your mind
at this very point in time
so you listen and truly hear.

share the “fragile—handle with care” sign
with the vulnerable, hold the hand-blown glass figure
gently in the moment
then head on home remembering
why you went into this business at all.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can maintaining intentional, mindful presence make a difference during challenging patient encounters? For the patient? For you?
  2. What helps you foster emotional self-reflective ability (and awareness) for developing emotional insight (self and other) and for emotional regulation? Can poetry help?
  3. How can you use your stories of challenge and triumph within the lifelong “becoming” of a physician to maintain meaning and purpose in the work you do?