The Grieving Doctor

We’ve talked about palliative care.  We’ve talked about hospice care.  We’ve discussed the stages of grief and how each of us feel differently about the loss of our loved ones.  We’ve even talked a little about how the nurses, the angels who took care of us in the chemo rooms and on the hospital floors, dealt with the loss of their patients.  But have we ever really thought about our doctors?  So many of us have built relationships with our oncologists over the years, because so often, cancer care isn’t just a few weeks, but many months, many years sometimes and our doctors become more than medical advisers.  They become friends and a part of our families. 

It’s almost four years since Leroy is gone and I count his oncologist and his wife among my cherished friends.  These are special people. 

But how did Leroy’s team of docs feel when he passed away?  Did they grieve his loss? 

Today,  a study released in Archives of Internal Medicine, finds that doctors do experience grief.  The professional taboo on the emotion also appears to weigh heavily on the doctors and in some cases impacts the quality of care they provide.  This study took place from 2010 to 2011 in three Canadian hospitals.  A wide range of ages, sex, and ethnicity was used in the study as well as experience in cancer world. 

According to the results, some oncologists were ashamed to admit they felt grief.  Some hid their feelings of grief because showing emotion was considered a sign of weakness.  Leeat Granek, one of the health psychologists involved in the study, wrote that many of the doctors used in the study, said that this was the first time they had been asked questions about grief surrounding the loss of patients. 

I’m sad to learn about this study.  Who’s checking on the heart beat of our oncologists?  These wizards of the cancer wars get wounded too.  They need time to feel, just like all of us. 

Some one, please, open up an “understanding room” for the grieving doctor.



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