A neurosurgeon’s lessons on love, loss, and compassion
“Dehumanizing patients can lead to indifference in physicians. It is a privilege to be trusted to take care of every patient we encounter, yet we can lose sight of this and begin to see our patients as a burden, or as units of work, rather than as individuals. When individual patients cease to matter, we cease to care. This is the precipice of burnout and invites mistakes and poor behavior, such as cutting corners or pushing the envelope by exposing patients to excessive risks.
Often, physicians hold themselves to unachievable standards of perfection. No surgery is ever perfect, yet we expect perfection from ourselves and from our colleagues. Partly the result of training, these unrealistic standards also interfere with emotional connection or empathy. Complications are an inevitable part of the work we do, yet physicians often lack self-compassion. Self-compassion is a crucial component of emotional flexibility; unrelenting self-criticism does not promote learning or modification of maladaptive behaviors.”
Joseph D. Stern is a neurosurgeon and author of Grief Connects Us: A Neurosurgeon’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and Compassion.
He shares his story and discusses his KevinMD article, “Emotional agility is an essential element for patients and practitioners.” (https://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2021/06/emotional-agility-is-an-essential-element-for-patients-and-practitioners.html)