In the Media: Medical Leader Has Epiphany About Nurses
Mar 17, 2014, 10:00 AM
This is part of the March 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.
It took Arnold S. Relman, MD, one of the nation’s foremost medical thinkers, nine decades and a full-blown medical catastrophe to fully appreciate the value of nurses, according to an essay he penned in the Feb. 6 edition of the New York Review of Books.
Relman, 90, a doctor, a professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School, and a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, learned this lesson the hard way: as a patient. Last summer, Relman fell down the stairs and suffered life-threatening injuries—and discovered the critical role nurses play in health and health care during his lengthy recovery.
He shared his late-in-life epiphany in his recent essay: “I had never before understood how much good nursing care contributes to patients’ safety and comfort, especially when they are very sick or disabled,” he wrote. “This is a lesson all physicians and hospital administrators should learn. When nursing is not optimal, patient care is never good.”
Relman’s remarks spawned a surprise reaction from Lawrence K. Altman, MD, who begged the following question in a post on the New York Times Well Blog: “How is it that a leading medical professor like Dr. Relman—who has taught hundreds of young doctors at Boston University, the University of Pennsylvania (where he was chairman of the department of medicine) and Harvard—might not have known about the value of modern-day Florence Nightingales?”
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This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.