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Looking for empathy in medicine? Start with nurses | READER COMMENTARY

Ruoxi Yu is a medical student at Johns Hopkins medical school. She worked as a liaison between patients and families in April. June 18, 2020
Ruoxi Yu is a medical student at Johns Hopkins medical school. She worked as a liaison between patients and families in April. June 18, 2020 (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Regarding Mike Klingaman’s recent article, “Johns Hopkins medical students help coronavirus patients and their families stay in touch” (June 28), I’m all for increasing the empathy and listening skills of young physicians. Who isn’t? Nevertheless, it is frustrating to think that Hopkins gets noticed for suddenly inculcating a whole-patient approach when this has always been a primary feature of nursing practice.

It’s hard not to see this as, yet again, a case of physicians getting the credit for nurses’ contribution. Nurses don’t work for glory or power, which is generally supported by hospitals typically choosing physicians to represent in front of the media, and the media pursuing physician experts when reporting on nearly any health care topic. Moreover, we certainly don’t work for big bucks. Primary care nurse practitioners, for example, can expect to earn half what physicians earn in spite of performing the same role.

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I’m ironically glad to hear that medical students are developing the skill of listening, but let’s not fall all over ourselves with excitement when 4 million nurses make no big deal of listening every day.

Maureen Fitzpatrick, M.S.N., Baltimore

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