Now, granted, we as providers need a degree of emotional distance. There is a reason providers ought not to treat their own family members, and it takes a measured aloofness to be able to do certain tasks like cut into a person’s body. Providing medical care is exhausting work, and it is not possible (nor wise) to give your all to everyone.
Some walls do need to come up, but if we are not careful, we may find that those barriers we erect will not come down on demand when we hang our white coats and turn off our beepers (hopefully those can be turned off). That distance may protect me from suffering myself if my patients do not do well, but it also blunts my ability to experience all of life’s emotions outside the office and prevents me from being fully present to those most important in my life.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Many physicians work while sick, but why?
The statistics for physician burnout is staggering. I hate to become a statistic, and I thought perhaps if I just powered through and do not let myself get too emotionally invested in my patient, I will be fine. But perhaps the opposite is true, that when we open ourselves up and connect with our patients in the good and especially the bad, we will find the joy again and be reminded of why we entered this field in the first place. This year, I want to give myself permission to pause and to grieve. It might mean I may not get to my next patient on time, but I think that patient (and ultimately my family and friends) will be better off for it.
I do not like to talk much, but writing has been a means of pausing and processing. With a toddler and newborn in my life, I have gotten out of the habit of journaling but hope to make time for in 2018. I went back and found this entry that I had written about the death of one of my first regular patients. I was glad that I still remember his name. But so that I do not forget his person, I share this with you.
I found out yesterday that you passed away.
I’ve had patients pass away before, but since I’m just starting out, I haven’t had much of a relationship with many.
I got to see you almost monthly for the past two years because of your many medical problems, so I think we got to know each other a bit.