Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Healing beyond the sterile chamber

Brody Fogleman
Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States

A senior resident once shared with me: “Patients don’t heal in the hospital; they get sicker. Our goal is to stabilize, medically optimize, and discharge.” Though I was surprised by such a statement, it became truer the more patients I encountered as a medical student. 

A patient admitted, a room decorated with medical equipment, and the constant hum of a clinical environment are conditions we normalize and associate with healing. Yet, the crescendo of recovery, as my senior resident mentor emphasized, does not resonate in this perfect setting. It begins when patients start to voice their needs and express a longing for the comfort of their homes. 

The advice was crystal clear—attend to their needs, listen to their concerns, and recognize the signs that their journey to healing may be best continued in what they call home. It is not an ignorant dismissal but a profound understanding that the true healing journey begins when patients yearn for the familiarity of their own space. Their expressions may not always be signs of regression; they might be simple indications that their senses are returning, that they are normalizing to their baseline. 

In the hospital, patients are like caged wild animals, yearning for the openness and consistency of home. It is not a suggestion to rush them out; it is an acknowledgment that the true therapeutic landscape lies beyond the clinical confines of a sterile chamber. Rather, the healing journey lies in the cadence of their normal. 

The wisdom shared by my mentor echoes through the corridors of my medical identity—an invitation to recognize that healing is a symphony, and its most resonant notes are struck when patients feel heard, attended to, and when they step out of our perfectionist environment and return to the soothing nature of home. It reminds me that each patient is precious, has a life outside of their medical conditions, and is a social being—longing for the normalcy that we as healthcare providers have a difficult time appreciating in this sanctioned environment and workplace. 

As I navigate the complexities of patient care, I will respect this melody strongly, embracing the understanding that patients do not merely heal in the hospital; they begin their journey toward restoration when they express their needs, when they express their yearning for home within appropriate boundaries, and when they eventually return to the genuine rhythm of life. This is a call to harmonize healthcare with the individual nuances of each patient’s journey, allowing them to find their way back to health not in a clinical reservoir but in the comforting cadence of their own daily routine.

BRODY M. FOGLEMAN earned his Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2021. He is currently a third-year medical student at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine – Carolinas Campus (VCOM), with plans to pursue a career in internal medicine.

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