Medicine and Emotion: Is It Okay to Cry?

Usually I try to do some reading before writing- disclaimer I didn’t. Today’s article is emotion filled and coming straight from my heart.

I have spent 5 years as a medical student and less than a month as a medical doctor and I’m still waiting on that lesson that teaches me how to handle the human part of medicine.

Medical practitioners interact with patients and their family and friends on a daily basis when they’re in the hospital. After a while patients stop being bed numbers and start being names, sometimes you even remember their registration numbers and other details like age and address almost reflexively.

You start rooting for patients, hoping that they’ll get better or be able to source the funds for a test. A lot of medical practitioners go above and beyond for patients, they bring them home with them in their hearts and minds.. trying to figure what they missed or how to solve xyz problem.

The point is, we get attached.

But what happens when you or the patient leaves?

I have cried, I have felt intense sadness when a patient passes and genuine happiness when they leave and get better. In my short short career I have so many stories, and I remember each of them vividly as if they happened yesterday.

So my question is, is it okay to cry? And it is. No one can tell me differently. We are human, we have feelings.

We are trained to not let anything cloud how we manage patients… without removing the human touch.

Frankly, I think emotion makes us better doctors and better nurses… but it makes the job a hard and difficult one that you take home with you everyday.

To end, I will share a story about a conversation I had with a paediatrician… I told them that I didn’t want to do paediatrics because I  could not handle seeing children die… they responded (paraphrased) yes, children die… but you get so much joy seeing a sick child get better and go home. And there’s way more of that… and that makes it all worth it.

There is so much good in medicine.

Share your thoughts with me.

Samantha C. Johnson

Featured photo by Rikki Austin on Unsplash

3 Comments

  1. I always say ‘if you don’t care about people then you shouldn’t work in medicine, especially in Jamaica’. Emotion makes you a better doctor. Remember you will see people at the worse point of their lives sometimes and no matter how the day is going they’re looking to you.

    Separation is the hard part. You can’t take the baggage home with you always otherwise you wouldn’t function. 17 years and there are still times when I get attached and a bad outcome hits me.

    It’s a learning process always. Remember you’re not trying to save lives you’re trying to make them better. Take a few minutes when you can to listen. That’s all patients need sometimes.

    1. All of this… so true! Thank you for commenting

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