There is a small story described in the 7th edition of oxford handbook of clinical medicine of a man who cut his hand and went round to his neighbor for help. This neighbor happened to be a doctor but it was not the doctor but his 3 year old daughter who opened the door. Seeing that he was hurt and bleeding, she took him in, pressed her handkerchief over his wound, and reinclined him, feet up in the nearest chair. She stroked his head and patted his hand and told him about her marigolds and then about her frogs and, after sometime was starting to tell him about her father when her father eventually appeared. He quickly turned the neighbor into a patient, and then into a bleeding biohazard and then dispatched him to casualty for suturing. (The neighbor had no idea what this was) he waited 3 hours in casualty, had 2 desultory stitches, and 1 interview with a medical student who suggested a tetanus vaccination. He returned to his doctor next door a few days later praising his young carer (the doctor’s daughter) but not the doctor (who had turned him into a patient), nor the hospital (who had turned him into an item on a conveyer belt) nor the student who turned him into a question mark.
The question is why is this story being shared here ? Well, My life as a medical student initially and then as a doctor now has always been so contradicting. During our studies our textbooks teach us to talk to patients, to relate with their tragedies and console them, to make them laugh and to feel the pain with which they are dealing with. Sometimes there are patients who are undergoing chemotherapy for some very severe forms of cancer and both the patient and his family need counseling and some sort of emotional support which ideally has to be provided by the medical practitioner. But in the real run or in the real life we really don’t get the right time for it. There are times when we really want to talk to a specific patient but there’s one patient just admitted in the ward and another one just on a stretcher waiting to get a bed, then there’s a call from the Intensive Care Unit or the Emergency Department where a patient is undergoing resuscitation and then there are deadlines to meet and presentations to be carried out, and amidst all of this hassle the talking session with the patient somehow just goes in the background!
I still remember my clinical rotation in the psychiatry ward and I remember talking to the patients. These were people who did not need medicines. They just needed a shoulder to cry on, a person to listen to them. Some had lost their families in some terrible accident, some had suffered other disasters in their lives and all they were looking for was some company, someone to listen to them!
I remember how our senior doctors or consultants used to urge us to talk to them but somehow when we actually entered the hospitals for our housejob and when we were actually hands on the patients we realized that out of all of the seniors and the consultants who taught us to talk to patients were never seen talking to the patients themselves for more than ten fifteen minutes, listening to their laments was a question very farther!.Many chapters of the medical ethics are long forgotten before we hardly step out of the residency programmes.
Maybe a doctor is supposed to be brave and have less feelings; one may think at one point of their live but then again there are haunting feelings when I look up to a patient suffering immensely from an emotional loss and I cannot stop imagining how my own life would have been if God Forbid I were to be in his or her boots and how much I would have wanted to talk to someone. Somehow in medicine emotions diminish somewhere across the corner and one stops realizing that emotional losses can be sometimes even more worse than physical ones though we still keep on living the usual life in the usual emotionless practical form; a form more socially acceptable probably.