Editor's Note: which features contributions from members of the medical community. These blogs are an opportunity for bloggers to engage with readers about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Jack Tsai, MD, a family physician at The Children's Clinic in Long Beach, California. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of or UBM Medica.
A new year is upon us, so it is time for the obligatory New Year resolutions. However, since I am terrible at keeping resolutions, here is at least one thing I hope to work on for 2018: I want to grieve better.
It is a bit of a downer, I know, but with every year of medical experience under my belt (which is also literally growing), I find it increasingly difficult to connect emotionally with my patient, especially those who are not doing well. This is ironic since physicians are supposed to be healers, and crucial to building that therapeutic relationship is the provider’s ability to empathize and have compassion.
Instead of an increasing capacity to care for my patients, though, I have noticed that each year of medical training and practice brings more cynicism, burnout and emotional detachment. While so many factors contribute to physician burnout, I suspect a big problem is not taking the time to remember, celebrate and grieve the patients I have lost.
Six years into primary care practice now, I have built up a steady panel of continuity patients, and sadly I have had a number of them pass away. Some deaths were expected due to multiple co-morbidities, others appeared just fine at their visit the week prior. When I think back on my experience of those deaths, I see how with each notification I am able to more quickly move on and back to my everyday of patient care, phone calls and lab reviews. What is alarming being that I cannot remember some of their names, even ones whom I have cared for over years and had developed a relationship with.
TRENDING ONLINE: Addressing the main cause of physician burnout
As a primary care physician in an underserved community, I have learned to be quite efficient. On an average day, I can get through a whole schedule of patients, follow up on abnormal labs and studies, return phone calls, and close out all my charts without having to bring any work home. Sometimes I can even sneak in a power nap during my lunch break. But that efficiency has come at the cost of cutting out the time needed to get to know patients on a personal level beyond their medical diagnoses.