Dear Dr. Dan Gottlieb,A few months ago I heard part of your show on the topic of caring and sympathetic doctors. The part of the show I heard was unanimous that doctors should feel the pain of their patients. I can agree with that. A few years ago I walked out of the office of a doctor who was not very caring. Doctors, funeral home directors, police officers, firemen, clergy, teachers, etc. and really all of us in helping professions can be more sympathetic. At the same time anyone who has a career in helping people, especially in their crisis times, has to be able to put away from the pain of others or that professional will not be able to survive emotionally for very long. I am a pastor, and in one day I presided at the wedding of two very special people and two hours later I presided at the funeral of a beloved person. In the morning I felt joy with one family and in the afternoon I felt grief with another family. In the evening I had to disengage from both of those families and focus on my own family. To carry home the emotions, especially the grief, of earlier in the day would not be fair to my family. Now speaking as an individual, I do have my special, unique pains that I feel and live through and I can’t expect every person to feel the pain to the same intensity that I do. I don’t want others to pretend.
thank you for writing this letter as I am going to deal with this subject in my column next week. Many caregivers suffer with what is called compassion fatigue because those of us who care deeply often have difficulty establishing appropriate boundaries.I will later which will be the subject of my column