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The Power of Stories in Patient Care: How One Doctor Makes a Difference

Blog The Power of Stories in Patient Care: How One Doctor Makes a Difference

As a palliative care physician, I strive to help my patients live a good quality life even in the midst of serious illnesses. I focus on earning their trust while trying to understand the depth of their stories. We all have a story. For instance, I am a father, a husband and I also have a history of depression. Fortunately, I have been in successful recovery for years. We are all perfectly imperfect human beings with a deep and rich story to share. As a physician, I deeply respect the honor of being invited into the story of another person. It is something I never take for granted.


As a palliative care physician, I spend my days helping patients (and their families) best determine the goals of medical care in the midst of life-threatening and/or life-limiting medical conditions. I strive to help my patients live a good quality life even in the midst of serious illnesses.  I do that by getting to know each of my patients and their families on a personal level. I focus on building and earning their trust while trying to understand the depth of their stories—their personal thoughts, feelings, fears and expectations. One thing I’ve learned: Everyone has a story and we all deserve an empathic ear. 

Who am I? My name is Dr. Adam B. Hill. In addition to being a physician at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, I’m also a busy and blessed father of two young children—and a human being, one who has their own story.  A human being aware of the crushing heartache and concern that can consume my patients and their caregivers.  And I’ve also had my own clinical experiences: I have a history of depression that almost took my life.  This medical condition reached its peak after losing my own identity to the relentless grind of medical education. Fortunately, for many years now, I have been successful in recovery.  

I share my story to make a point and to let other people know they are not alone.  Individuals practicing medicine are people, too.  Remember, compassion and empathy come from perspective.  Individuals with the greatest capacity for empathy are often the ones that have also been through their own struggles. We are all perfectly imperfect human beings with a deep and rich story to share.  As a physician, I deeply respect the honor of being invited into the story of another person.  It is something I never take for granted. 

So, today, please remember that we all have our own unique stories.  Your favorite physicians, nurses, therapists and social workers have a tale to tell, too.  You may not see it on their face or in their stride or hear it through their words, but they do.

For providers, please remember this is not something to be ashamed of – your experiences, struggles and triumphs can provide a gift of perspective.

For patients, it is not something to be afraid of – it is a gift of empathy.  The gift of having another person care for you who knows what it is like to be sick. 

So, today I encourage all individuals—both patients and providers to share to your own levels of comfort, in your own time and in your own way.  Seek out other people to share in your story, for support, guidance and acceptance.  Find other people who will listen empathically.  And to know and understand that doctors are human beings too - blessed into a caregiving role.  

Some of the best caregivers are those who truly care about their patients.  Those caregivers will walk the journey with you as a reminder that you are not alone. 

-- By Adam Hill, MD
   Associate Program Director Pediatric Residency Program
   Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health

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