Doctors are funny creatures. Most of them have this other language, medical jargon, which they speak to their patients as if they’ll be understood. Some are so nerdy it’s hard to pay attention without wanting to laugh a little. Some don’t know who you are, or what you came in for without referring to your chart several times (annoying and unsettling). A few are teachers and can bring it down to layman’s terms without making you feel like an imbecile. Too many have a god-complex. Some are kind and seem to listen. Many don’t give you enough time to ask your questions, or remember what questions you have to ask. A few are grumpy and just need to retire. Some, well, they cry.
Doctors are smart. And persistent. Usually doctors go to 4 years of undergraduate school, then 4 years of medical school, then an internship, then a couple years of residency, then often go on to specialize by attending a fellowship program for a number of months/years, then they are out on their own. Sometimes I feel like they’ve studied so much that their ability to relate to people is challenged!
Let me back up. I’m a nurse. For my entire career I’ve worked with oncology (cancer) patients. I LOVE what I do. I would not trade my patients for any other group of people because they have taught me so much. My entire career has also been spent dealing with doctors. All the types described above.
My favorite was the doctor who cried. He’d probably give me S for saying so…so I’ll amend this to say he teared up. To be fair, he was also brilliant but able to relate with his patients. I’ll call him Dr. Dave.
Healthcare can be cold and impersonal. We as medical professionals try to create environments that allow us to give safe, standardized care. We’re afraid to tap into emotions because it might lead us to make a mistake. This often feels to the patient like we’re robots and they’re on an assembly line. I believe there needs to be some heart infused into healthcare!
In my business, the big “C” word brings out all sorts emotions–I believe for the rest of that person’s life. And not just that person but their family and friends and the people rooting for them. There is a time to be strong. There is also a time to let those emotions rush out in a flood of tears. We are not just a “part” to be worked on. We have a heart and soul that can be injured in ways medicine cannot fix.
I hate hearing my patients get bad news. I hate seeing the hope leave their eyes, to see defeat. I hate watching them trying to be strong, then lose that battle. And I have the utmost respect how Dr. Dave handled these difficult situations. He would hold her hand. Put his hand on his shoulder. He would give his or her spouse’s hand a squeeze. He hugged the children (or parents). He offered kleenex and took some himself. He cared.
Maybe it was because I worked with Dr. Dave straight out of fellowship and helped his practice blossom and grow. Maybe it’s because this was when I felt like I finally became confident as an oncology nurse. Maybe it was because we were “the best half-Asian oncology team this side of the Mississippi” and could laugh, joke, curse, and work hard together. Maybe it was sharing tears with countless patients and their families. Whatever it was made me feel like I was a part of giving great care and changing lives. And it continues to make me want to connect with my patients, to not be afraid to “go there”, to care for body, heart, and soul.