Humanities at the Bedside

Endings - Session D


The End: Fifteen endings to fifteen paintings, by Nicolas Ruston


Guiding discussion:

Our mind is a machine for jumping to conclusions. It will take information it has and create a story, often not bothering for information it doesn’t have. Whether we like to acknowledge this tendency, emergency physicians formulate stories about patients. Sadly, this is often accompanied by judgment. Our patient’s presence in the emergency department is often the end result of all that happened before, or maybe not. Unfortunately, we’ve already created a story for patients--the person who crashed into a tree was intoxicated-- that can prevent us from asking different types of questions.

  • Are you aware of the way you formulate judgments, biases, emotional reactions to patients?
  • Do you find yourself creating backstories for patients? Do you find it helpful or a distraction or a detriment to your ability to understand them?



  • Choose a painting to represent you and explain why. (Comment, for example, on style, mood, tone. Think about why this particular painting engaged you. Is the appeal something you can explain in  your head, or is the attachment more in your gut?)
  • Develop a story that has that particular painting as the ending. Write for 5-10 minutes. 


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