A little bit about dealing with loss in medicine

It has been quite an overwhelming and exhausting past few weeks.

I have been rotating through the anesthesia, critical care and now surgery.

In between getting little sleep and trying to seem semi-competent on the floors, I have been thinking a lot about dealing with loss- particularly dealing with the loss of patients.

In the past few weeks I have encountered patients that are really sick. Most of these patients are at their end of life and even though a lot of them are in they 70-80s, it is still an eye opening experience getting to witness what could possibly be their last days alive.

From a medical perspective, these cases are really complex and I have learned a lot about pathophysiology and treatment. In many ways, I am indebted to these patients for teaching me, through their disease, how to be a better doctor.

From a personal perspective though, my heart really aches for a lot of these patients. Being relatively fresh into this new clinical world probably has a lot to do with how connected I feel to these patients. Also, actually having the time to sit down and talk with them has connected me to them more than everyone else on their medical team. Hearing their stories of immigration, of love, of family, of the longing to still want to recover and enjoy life, have been heartbreaking and have humbled me in more ways than I had imagined. In many ways, I am grateful to be able to see this side of disease, because it is softening me as a person.

Going back to the medical perspective, though, I finally understand why doctors may sometimes seem detached from their patients. Observing interactions from more senior doctors, I’ve noted that in order to give good medical care, sometimes you have to be detached. I am not implying that there is a lack of care, but sometimes in order not to let emotions allow treatments to be pushed that will not benefit the patient, a doctor needs to be a little bit detached. I am not sure if others agree with this, but having seen these really tough end of life decisions taking place, family meetings to discuss this, talks with the patient where they are told they will probably not get better, I find that medicine is a heartbreaking profession and that in order to be the best doctor you can be, you have to find a good balance between the personal and professional side of medicine.

I think that as doctors this is something that is not taught, but something that you learn as you go along in your training. I am glad that I am seeing this side of medicine right now and that, in my head, I am beginning to formulate the type of doctor I want to be. I am also glad that for the most part, I have been able to leave the hospital everyday with a sense of gratitude and not completely deflated by seeing and feeling so much death around me at times.

What are your thoughts on this?



PS: I am currently on my surgery rotation and it has been hectic! This is why there have been fewer posts here…just bear with me- four more weeks of surgery and 4am mornings and late nights.



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