Friday, February 13, 2009

my kind of research

I recently got access to the vast client database on my computer. The oceans of personal information now at my fingertips give me a feeling of power - and then I realize still don't understand the complex search functions and my head deflates to normal size.

One very cool aspect of this new tool is that I can investigate and share details of our client success stories. I find great satisfaction in pulling human stories from the cold data of an historical record, especially one so well organized as this. The papers on my desk might just look like printout of home visit notes, but really they are timelines tracking the ups and downs of months of nurse/mother mentoring. As in everything, the nurses' comments are practical, efficient, honest, and a little ADD in the way they jump from one important topic to another. There's not much room for sentiment in medical records, but every now and then one sentence shines through with images of deeply personal encounters. "Infant vomited all over nurse after feeding." "Infant lungs clear, no heart murmur, playful, happy baby." "Told client she was making the right choices in life."

Pulling gems from pages of clinical notes reminds me of all those afternoons I spent in the Swem Library archives this spring, sifting through WM Board of Visitors minutes and the personal correspondence of 1930's college pres JAC Chandler. If I listen properly, the voices of people living and dead sing out from the printed letters. And I want to tell their stories that I find.

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