How To Be a Patient

Sana Goldberg ’12 writes a guide to navigating the world of modern medicine

By Sebastian Zinn ’17 | June 24, 2019

The system is broken. In 2014, Time magazine reported that the U.S. health care system was ranked “the worst among industrialized nations for the fifth time.” But fear not! Or at least, fear less? A new book by Sana Goldberg ’12, How to Be a Patient: The Essential Guide to Navigating the World of Modern Medicine, aims to help you secure the best possible medical care in a flawed system.

Early in her career as a registered nurse, Goldberg worked for Adventist and Legacy Health in Portland, Oregon. She is currently enrolled in a master’s program at Yale University focusing on providing psychiatric and mental health services to patients. As a health care insider, Goldberg draws on an abundance of anecdotes, testimonies, and research as she outlines methods for receiving better short-term care; ways of developing positive relationships with your medical providers to ensure better long-term care; and tactics for receiving the best emergency care when necessary.

How to Be a Patient imparts little-known strategies for receiving optimal care and attention in a rigged system, like befriending your pharmacist, dressing well for appointments, and choosing a friend or family member to advocate for you during hospital visits. One of the great strengths of Goldberg’s style as a writer is her adeptness at storytelling; many of the strategies she cites are exemplified anecdotally, bringing a personal tone to a system that often seems to snub individual experiences.

Goldberg repeatedly emphasizes that being a patient is a learning process, which requires diligence and resolve as well as time and resources. This approach is based on what for her is a golden rule: “Patient agency in the world of modern medicine is of paramount importance.” 

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