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Physicians Benefit From Coping Support

DoctorA respected authority posits the view that physicians, who often do not seek out help for themselves, could benefit from support to help them cope with the trauma of patient death.

In a preliminary study, Elaine Kasket from London Metropolitan University carried out detailed interviews with eight U.S. physicians about their experiences of death.

Half of those she spoke to wept as they recounted stories of traumatic death they had experienced as physicians, even though some of these events had occurred as much as 30 years ago.

“There is an unwritten rule for doctors that suggests it is not wise or possible for them to feel emotions over a patient’s death because there is always another patient to help,” said Dr Kasket.

“Whilst this detachment might help when presented with a patient with a severe injury, I question how well it serves them in the longer term.

“This emotional detachment is socially ingrained through medical school, and the cultures in both the UK and US medical establishments would see a physician’s emotional response to death as a sign of weakness and even incompetence.

“It feeds into this popular image of the physician as some kind of superhuman ultimate rescuer of human life; unable to do his or her job if they give in to or even acknowledge their emotions.

“The reality is that doctors, and other medical professionals, regularly encounter violent human death, and medical culture does not tend to acknowledge the possibility that they need support to help them deal with any grief and emotional disturbance they may experience.

“There are countless examples of doctors being cold and dispassionate as they tell family members of the death of a loved one, and the physician’s own defensiveness and anxiety could well be part of this communication problem.

“It may be that creating a shell is actually the best way of coping with the trauma of the job, but I’m not convinced of that. It is certainly not the case for psychologists working with cancer patients who feel unable to work well if they do not process their emotions.

”Medical training instils and re-enforces this approach to dealing with death.

“Also there needs to be a sea change in medical culture to make support available, and for it not to be stigmatised, to help them cope with grief, depression, despair or sadness.”

Source: University of Bath

Physicians Benefit From Coping Support

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Physicians Benefit From Coping Support. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 27, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2007/09/14/physicians-benefit-from-coping-support/1282.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.