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Humanities at the Bedside

Boundaries - Session C

The Steel Windpipe, Mikhail Bulgakov http://www.masterandmargarita.eu/estore/pdf/eben204_thesteelwindpipe.pdf  

Guiding Discussion

  1. What are the boundaries, implicit and explicit, in this story?           
  2. Was there a moment when you as an emergency medicine clinician felt particularly uncomfortable?
  3. Did the physician cross a line in this story? Would his actions be considered commendable, irresponsible or both? How is that value judgment determined?



The physician in “The Steel Windpipe” is fresh out of training and feels unprepared for this rural practice. Scalpel in hand, faced with securing an emergency airway on a young girl, he thinks, “I went cold and my forehead broke out in a sweat. I bitterly regretted having studied medicine and having landed myself in this wilderness.” Wilderness could describe his practice setting, but how else might you describe elements of a wilderness--in literal and creative terms--in medical practice or medical training.  Have you ever had moments when you harbored thoughts of regret, or felt ill-prepared, or were struck by great uncertainty and anxiety? Take 5-10 minutes and write about a particular situation? Was it a shock? How did you respond?



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