Being a doctor is one of the toughest jobs on the planet. Failure in the medical industry can cost the life of a patient along with the resounding grief that loss brings to that patient’s family. This is the reason behind the incredible pressure for physicians to be at their best 24/7 even when this is not always possible. After all, doctors are humans too. Because of this pressure, physicians often learn to detach themselves emotionally from their patients to protect themselves – which oftentimes distances them from clients while contributing to feelings of burnout.
What some may fail to realize is that the one thing that bonds all doctors to their patients is the fact that they – we – are all human. The incidents, stories, and events unfolding in every individual’s lives, no matter how different, is what ties us to one another. This means that empathy is vital when it comes to operating in the healthcare industry. In a field dedicated to healing the sick and treating the wounded, humans are the priority consideration. It takes one to know one, so while becoming jaded on the job may help a little at first, doing so will eventually keep practicing physicians disconnected from the very people they endeavor to help.
In order to exercise empathy in medicine, it is important for physicians to be able to achieve “emotional agility”. It is not an easy adjustment, but once used to it, emotionally agile doctors have an easier time recognizing, understanding, and allowing themselves to flow in and out of the natural emotions that occur on the job. This way, vulnerability becomes a strength rather than a weakness – lending the power to face emotional situations head on instead of shirking away from them. Doctors can then practice medicine in a way that targets the whole human being behind the patient, taking personal feelings into consideration while treating and healing the physical body.
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