If the doctor could see her patient as a person who is suffering instead of as a set of medical conditions, she might become more empathetic. That is the goal of Tell Me More, a simple idea that started on Valentine’s Day 2014, when medical students at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital asked patients or their loved ones three personal questions (How would your friends describe you? What are your strengths? What has been the most meaningful experience in your life?) and displayed the answers on posters near their beds.
In the emotionally charged setting of a hospital, small talk can have a big effect. Med student Marie Oliva Hennelly says the signs helped her “know who we’re fighting for.” She says that one inspiration for the program was a poem by a doctor, Brenda Butka, published in JAMA in 2012, which ends, “Tell me about your father.”