[Note: The exploration phase of the Health for America at MedStar Health fellowship includes in-depth simulation experiences. Given the many dimensions of stroke, the 2016-17 fellows participated in a range of stroke simulations. You can read Stephanie's reflections below, and hear from other fellows here and here.]
If I had to sum up my stroke simulation experience in one word or theme, it would be “deliberation.”
First, there was the inherent deliberateness of our taking on personas and simulating stroke-induced disabilities. During the short-term simulation, I assumed the persona of a woman in her mid-50s who had a hemorrhagic stroke. Her resulting disabilities were primarily sensory-related and cognitive communication disorders (on the right). I also tried to be deliberate about my attitude during the simulation. I wanted to avoid taking on a “woe is me” or “my life is pitifully hard” outlook. I definitely wanted to experience the frustration and desperation that might come with living with disabilities, but I also wanted to empathize with how the patients we’ve met learn to cope and adapt their lives in the face of their challenges.
During my simulation experience, another sense of constant deliberation took over my life. Everything I did, even routine actions or speaking a sentence, had an added layer of intentionality and effort.
I need to wake up and brush my teeth, wash my face, and eat breakfast before going to work. Oh right, I also need to take a blood pressure reading and take my (fake) medications. Okay, it’s a bit tough because of my visual impairment, so how much longer is that going to take me? I should set my alarm clock for 30 minutes earlier than usual to account for this.
My experience was similar during the long-term simulation. My persona was a woman with gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), who was watching her sodium and carbohydrate intake. I couldn’t just mindlessly grab a snack after work; I had to read the nutrition facts, grab my phone to enter the sodium amount as part of my daily intake tracking, and measure out the serving size specified before I could finally eat. I also realized that not everything in the world is designed for lives lived deliberately. I went to a Sichuan restaurant; I ate a home-cooked meal; I scooped some granola onto a plate to snack on while at the Cleveland Clinic conference – none of these could be easily tracked and built into my deliberate plan.
As much as the constant deliberation constrained my life during the simulation, I can more confidently say that we will begin to ideate in a way that is deliberate as well. I now realize how hard it is to “eyeball” the amount of sodium on a plate. I can begin to understand how a communication disorder can be isolating and incapacitating.
We’re beginning ideation now with a seemingly endless white canvas of possibility, but I hope the ideas we paint are deliberately empathetic and serve those with the greatest needs.