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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Bias in Healthcare

Published June 20, 2011 5:14 PM by Joe Darrah

The New York Times recently wrote about a male patient at an HIV clinic in the city who was under the impression that he had been living with the disease that causes AIDS for nearly 20 years. Today, thanks to a hunch one of his providers, a nurse practitioner, had concerning the man's history of high T-cell counts, he knows he does not have one of the most emotionally and physically devastating diseases the world sees. His test taken in the early 1990s was a false-positive.

He does however live with diabetes, hypertension, hepatitis C and leg ulcers. His appearance and reputation (he was formerly a long-time drug user who spent time in jail) had many healthcare providers fooled for many years. 

In a much less dramatic (and basically opposite) incident, I went several months (possibly years) living with a condition that my physical appearance didn't emulate--even though I was symptomatic--before my doctor felt inclined to investigate--hypothyroidism.

Sometimes, the "obvious" is tough to uncover. It's a difficult position to be in, but as providers I guess you can really only trust your instincts so much.



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