Humans crave raw empathy.
The voyeuristic photo reveals the emotional reality of doctoring—and a side of physicians that people don’t usually see—while uniting us all in our common humanity.
Unexpected death is universally heartbreaking.
When it comes to our work, nothing is harder- and I mean nothing- than telling a loved one that their family member is dead. Give me a bloody airway to intubate. Give me the heroin addict who needed IV access yesterday, but no one can get an IV. Give me the child with anaphylaxis. But don’t give me the unexpected death…We can only do so much, and we can only hope to do our best. But it’s that moment, when you stop resuscitation, and you look around, you look down at your shoes to make sure there’s no blood on them before talking with family, you put your coat back on and you take a deep breath, because you know that you have to tell a family that literally the worst thing imaginable has happened. And it’s in the moment that I feel. And I feel like the guy in this picture
More than anything—doctors need your empathy.
The part most people fail to realize, is that after a physician/nurse deals with a patient’s death they have to compose themselves, walk into another person’s room, and introduce him/herself with a smile and handshake to the next person. Sometimes healthcare workers walk in to see someone new and before even introducing themselves, out comes; ‘We’ve been sitting here for 45 minutes and…’ or ‘That woman over there has been moaning forever and nobody is helping her.’ You literally had to direct yourself 100% at someone grappling with death, and the rest of the show goes on around you.
There’s times where you run, and rush, and hurry, and skip eating, and go 12 hours without urinating, and you’d deliver a first born, and through it all, you lose, you get complained to, and you get zero sympathy from your coworkers or management. Ive been covered in phlegm, urine, blood, infectious drainage, sweat, and tears. Ive had to go from ensuring a person continues to breathe, to a room full of angry people because someone wanted a refill on their birth control and the call light has been on for 10 minutes, and we’re going to another hospital, and we want another doctor, and this place is getting a call to the administration, and I’m going to call a lawyer, and Im calling channel 5 news, and we know so-and-so and he’s going to hear about this.
Healthcare is a life of fighting, defending yourself, sacrificing yourself, working weekends, missing holidays, and sometimes things like losing a patient makes you want to throw up your hands and say ‘fuck it, I’m out.’ But you can’t. You do it because you love it. You do this thankless and unappreciated job because you want to. I can’t believe I’m in 6-figure debt and gave up the nights and weekends of my 20s so I could voluntarily do it. But I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
Let me tell you those ‘Thank-You’ Cards probably mean more to us than you think…we do hugely appreciate when people like yourselves taking the time to say ‘Thanks!’'
Doctors are not allowed to grieve.
“We are never formally trained to deal with loss and/or with giving the worst news of a families life to them.”
I know what that person is feeling. Recently one of my 17-month-old patient died. I was in the bathroom crying in private between patients several times that day. I’ve cried in stairwells and hallways. It eats at you. Life is very fragile and the pain of losing those we are trying to help becomes a scar that doesn’t go away. It has shaped who I am as a person.
In medicine, crying is unprofessional. That needs to change—now.
A premedical student volunteering in the local ER tells my colleague about a female physician who cried after losing a child- That female physician was I. He thought my behavior was unprofessional. I asked, “Who did I harm by crying?” I was cited for unprofessional conduct for crying at work. My boss told me, “Unless you are dying, crying is unprofessional behavior and not to be tolerated.” Some physicians and young doctors-in-training are uncomfortable with tears. Grieving is a healthy reaction to sadness. Humans bond through shared pain. Unprocessed grief is dangerous for human health. Unprocessed grief is a root cause of physician bullying, abuse, depression—even suicide. Our profession punishes doctors for grieving and restricts the medical licenses of those seeking mental health care. So rather than process our grief, many docs turn to alcohol, drugs, firearms. Please do not punish us (healthcare professionals) for our willingness to be vulnerable with grief-stricken families. Real doctors cry.