The Doctor’s Perspective (The Other Side)

We know it can be quite difficult to look after patients when we ourselves are affected by ill health or by those close to us. After all, whilst we have been trained to maintain a level of physical and emotional resilience as professionals, we are human beings as well. The job can also take its toll over time and we may find ourselves emotionally vulnerable to what we hear from our patients e.g. they may be struggling with the cancer diagnosis/treatment, a close family member passing away, etc. which in turn may trigger feelings in yourself reminding you of the sanctity of life and perhaps personal experiences that have deeply affected you in the past.

On a personal note, I too went through a succession of three bereavements in a six-month period (two from cancer) during my junior doctor training and remember the difficulties of making sure my personal feelings and emotions didn’t spill over to my professional life or cloud my clinical judgement at the time. Looking back, I am grateful and deeply humbled by my patients who entrusted me to listen to their concerns, manage their conditions and form that doctor-patient relationship at a difficult time in my life. Unknown to them is that I probably got just as much out of the consultation as they did from the joy and satisfaction of being able to help a patient. I sincerely believe the whole experience has made me a better doctor and enabled me to appreciate the softer and perhaps sometimes more important aspects of medicine (e.g. empathy, communication skills, bedside manners, etc.).

Whilst most doctors would perhaps prefer not to openly disclose their inner feelings on the public domain, the reason for writing this account is for two reasons. One is to convey the message to my fellow colleagues that we can sometimes go through a difficult patch (and to seek help, if needed) and that it’s ok to admit to the feelings associated with it. This is just life. Secondly, and more importantly for the cancer-free journey, is that it is important for you (as the reader) to recognise that healthcare professionals are here to help you and that there is a genuine desire for them to want to help, even though at times you may feel or believe otherwise. Knowing this fact will help to build a better and trusting relationship with your doctor and the other healthcare professionals involved in your care – this is absolutely crucial to your cancer-free journey.