Patient Engagement

Trust in Healthcare During the Pandemic

Over the next few weeks, Engaging Patients will highlight podcasts and articles about how trust is involved when we — patients, clinicians, students and others — engage in healthcare. I didn’t go looking for a theme; rather, it presented itself through social media and email notifications. It appears that many people have been thinking about trust — even before the recent upheaval and breach of trust in Washington!

In healthcare, trust is always front and center. It affects all relationships and activities across healthcare settings, in research, teaching, colleagial connections and especially in decisions that patients make about treatment. The pandemic intensifies the role trust plays, for example, in whether or not people will take the vaccine, follow public health directives, feel comfortable seeking healthcare when needed, and countless other daily decisions. Many of those topics will be covered in weeks to come.

The series on trust begins with Danny van Leeuwen’s first post for the new year, titled “2021 Holiday Letter: Trust.” Danny, known to many through his blog and podcast called Health Hats, says the various hats he wears include patient advocate, researcher, caregiver, ePatient, clinician, leader, family man, and musician.

Two years ago, Danny shifted from writing blog posts to recording podcasts (with transcripts available for those who prefer print). The podcast conversations have a wonderful quality. They reflect the trust that Danny and his subjects share, resulting in exchanges that emit authentic warmth and honesty — impossible without trust.

In his holiday letter, Danny describes his priorities and state of mind as he faces the new year. It’s a lovely, personal message that also offers Danny’s beloved jazz in the background. He ends by declaring trust as a theme for the year, with a powerful simplicity. Engaging in healthcare, in work and in daily activities now requires more trust than ever and yields rewards that must not be taken for granted. In Danny’s words:

I’m familiar with grief. Loss of a loved one, someone else’s loved one, loss of abilities. How do I grieve for thousands dying of COVID-19 every day? I can’t open my heart that wide and survive. Dribbles of grief in, occasional tears out. I know anger and frustration, but too much distress, [and] my well-being plummets, my symptoms explode, and my effectiveness withers. So, I leverage my expertise in appreciation and gratitude.  As my friend, Catherine Lynch, said last week, ‘I appreciate that I’m alive, we can put food on our table, and none of my immediate family has COVID-19 yet.

Trust, trust, trust, a theme for the year. Trust comes in many flavors.  Trust in me, trust in each other, trust in science, trust in life. I’m grateful for my privilege, my health, and most of all, you. Onward.

For more by and about Danny van Leeuwen:

Helping the Helpers in Crisis

Engaged in My Health Journey – An Experiment of One


Susan Carr Susan Carr is a medical editor and writer specializing in patient safety and engagement. In addition to curating the EngagingPatients blog, she produces publications for the Betsy Lehman Center in Boston and the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine. Susan lives and works in Lunenburg, Massachusetts.

Susan Carr has 185 post(s) at

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