I was reading over on Kevin, MD about a photo that was captured by a paramedic. (http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2015/03/why-did-this-image-of-a-crying-doctor-go-viral-heres-why.html ) The photo shows a young doctor crying over the death of a patient. The photo has generated quite a lot of internet buzz. Should healthcare providers cry? Does crying make us unprofessional? Are we supposed be detached? What kind of person is able to remain emotionally detached doing what it is that we do?
I am not sure if it is a nurse thing or not. I cry. I cry in front of patients. I cry with patients. I cry with families. My last cry was happy tears while hugging a patient who had been told that the diagnosis of “metz” to his lungs was a mistake and he was going to be just fine. Yes, I cried with him when he got the original bad news.
I cry because I genuinely care deeply. It makes me a good provider for the most part. It makes me sit up reading every thing I can find that might help. Sometimes, there is nothing I can do but care about the other person. Sometimes that is the most important thing. Being human.
I laugh with patients. I joke with them. I encourage. I tease. Sometimes, I am the ice princess. But that is rare. The emotions I don’t share are angry ones. At least, I try not to let it show that I would like to dump a glass of ice water on the head of a patient that is yelling at me or insulting me. So, there are limits to being fully expressed.
It makes me sad to read about physicians being expected to “suck it up”. I imagine all that compartmentalizing is crazy making and it may be one of the reasons that physicians have such a high suicide rate. I don’t know why their training is so harsh. I don’t think it makes them “better” as health care providers. Their crazy high divorce and suicide rate should let them know it isn’t good for their health.
Do you remember Rosie Perez in White Men Can’t Jump? I love the part where she was trying to explain that she didn’t want the boyfriend to get up and get her a drink of water when she said she was thirsty. She could get it herself. She wanted him to just understand or care. She wanted him to say ” I too, have been thirsty”. Sometimes, our patients don’t want a pill or advice. Sometimes, they just want someone to say: “Yeah, parenting a teen was so hard for me too”.
I hope that more physicians are talking about the “disconnect” from emotions. I hope that they start encouraging each other to talk about their feelings long before they consider suicide. I think of all the young residents that I knew while working in that huge hospital. It breaks my heart to think that they will feel so isolated from the rest of the world that they think that sedation or suicide is the only way to cope.
One of the physician blogs that I follow is “Behind the White Coat beats a real human heart”. We all need to keep that in mind, don’t you think?