Art & Poetry in Medicine, Clinical, Family Medicine
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Health Care Is Not a Safe Space: A List of Experiences

The following manuscript was published as part of the February 2019 Social Medicine theme issue.

The man across the clinic who yelled “n***er bitch”

The patient who said I was a “round-eye” and thus not a slant-eye

The patient who said in the elevator that he knows Chinese: “ching, chang, chong”

The providers who laughingly pronounced a patient’s non-European-based name: “It sounds like your mouth is full of food”

The doctor who was consulted on whether a patient should be prescribed opiate pain medications, and his first question was: “Is the patient black?”

The brown patient who admitted to the provider that he had a hard time trusting the medical system, and his concern was met with disbelief and excuses

The news that showed kids dying at border detention facilities, hospital workers calling ICE on patients, and black woman in a mental health crisis shot to death in her own home by police

The fact that I know that I am also perpetuating these abuses:

When I rush through my interpreted visits

When I still feel a tiny twinge of surprise when I meet a doctor who is a person of color

When I spend more time with white patients because I think they’re the ones most likely to fill out a Press Ganey

When I know something is very broken but I don’t know how to fix it

When I know something is very broken but not enough people seem to want to fix it

What are we doing to make health care a safe space for everyone?

Image credit: courtesy of the author.

Phyllis Ying, MD Phyllis Ying, MD (5 Posts)

Resident Physician Columnist

Family Medicine residency in the Pacific Northwest

Phyllis Ying is a first-year Family Medicine resident. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and enjoys scrapbooking, reading, and running outside. She has been a part of the in-Training and in-House family for 4 years.

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Join me as I reflect on the challenges and joys of being a family medicine resident physician through the pages of my personal journal.