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Author Topic: As a doctor of medicine, how does it feel to be powerless to aid a patient?  (Read 3466 times)

Offline OldDragon

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Sorry, but the psychologist & writer in me cannot resist the opportunity of a little research of my own. :) At least you will realise that, when it comes to powerlessness, I can empathise.


 

Offline chris

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There is always something you can do, so one is never powerless. Even holding someone's hand and talking with them can make a huge difference.

Chris
 

Offline grumpy old mare

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Do doctors "as such" realise that, though? In my personal experience, most doctors do not do _anything_ anymore once their knowledge is exhausted except sending you away with lovely words such as "There's nothing we can do, good-bye".  (As happened when my brother in law was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease)

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even holding someone's hand and talking with them can make a huge difference.
It certainly can!
Is that maybe why the suicide rate amongst vets (who, I suppose, don't feel that 'holding paw' can make much difference) is so much higher than amongst doctors?
 

Offline OldDragon

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I've worked closely with a few doctors and certainly more than one vet - all in different circumstances - and every one has at some point expressed a feeling of powerlessness and revealed their own emotions in one way or another. I donít necessarily mean when in the company of, or treating, a patient they can do little for, other that listen to and talk with, and yes,  hold their hand if the patient is feeling afraid and vulnerable and it is the right thing to do for that patient and at that time.

But what of the medical doctorís own emotions? How does he or she deal with those Ė or do many really only cope?

As Grumpy Old Mare says, many vets commit suicide - one at a practice I used to use did, and two others there were doing the same the hard way with the bottle.

I know of several people closely involved in front-line animal rescue work who drink themselves to sleep every night to escape their emotions and the feeling of powerlessness.

Doctors, of course, are not exempt from that, or drug abuse, and of ones encountered either drinking or self-medicating, and possessed of the capacity for self-honesty, all mention powerlessness over their emotions once they start to open up. By listening and talking with them, it soon becomes apparent to them that the signs were there long before they had decided upon their chosen career path.

Iíve found the same thing is true of police and prison officers, as well as offenders, which is the area where Iíve most experience.

However, of all those Iíve worked with in whatever capacity, doctors are probably the ones that stand out as being the least willing to admit they even have emotions at all.

Why is this?

It is something that has intrigued me for a long time.
« Last Edit: 16/06/2008 22:25:43 by OldDragon »
 

Offline turnipsock

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The difference between doctors and vets is that one of them can ask "does this hurt?" and get an answer, the other gets a look that says 'try that again and you are going to get bit/scratched/pecked/spat on'.

I suppose because the doctor can talk to the patient, the patient can give the doctor some solice. Or, I may just be missing the point completly and the £100k a year is enough to help them sleep easily.
 

Offline grumpy old mare

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I suppose because the doctor can talk to the patient, the patient can give the doctor some solice. Or, I may just be missing the point completly and the £100k a year is enough to help them sleep easily.

I don't think so for the majority of doctors. I'm not all that happy with most doctors I have encountered - but at least some of them, even if they are the "I know better than you"-type, really do want to help their patients get better and, at least if it is a patient they also like on a personal level, have a real emotional problem if they can't help or can only help in very limited ways.
E.g. the surgeon who performed my discectomy really was quite shocked that I was left with nerve damage (I don't think it's because of the operation, but the long term depression of the spinal cord - I'm not accusing him!). When I met him by chance 5 years after the op, he immediately recognised me and asked how my leg was nowadays and seemed really sad that I'm still on medication because of it!! So I should think it does occasionally play on his mind that he couldn't make me totally 'right' again.

He probably earns more than 100k a year, but considering that he - like most orthopaedic consultants - works at the very least 80 hours a week (it's usually more like 100 hours) I actually think that for some doctors their remuneration is less than adequate! They'd be on much more if they worked in a high-ish position at, say, Shell - with no responsibility for 'life'!

I'm afraid I don't have a link, but I know there was a study in Germany years back into doctors / self-medication / dealing with the emotional stress that comes with the job and it was found that a terribly high percentage of doctors "self-medicate" both on cocaine and sleeping pills. Partly because of the stupid shifts they have to do in hospitals, partly because of the emotional stress.
 

Offline OldDragon

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There are, sadly, a lot who self-medicate - nurses, too, Grumpy Old Mare.

I used to meet up with a group that contained several of them (plus various actors and media people) once a month and over a meal, when some of us had a get-together. One of the doctors (a GP) there was always hyper and showed all the signs of using.

I wasn't even on any medication with mind altering properties, but the conversations were always very animated, interesting and stimulating to me, so I likely gave the impression to some that I was high on something - although the coffee in that place was always being topped up before the cups were drained, and the waiters hovered around us listening and joining in. We were often there long after all the other customers left. Often I was the only woman present, too, and one night went to use the toilet. There was the Doc I'd suspicions was using and snorting a line by the wash basin. He wasn't at all concerned by my entry, offered me a line and made it obvious he thought I was there for the same reason, hence had slipped into the ladies as a safer place to snort his coke!

You should have seen his face when I told him (couldn't resist) I was voluntary a prison substance misuse counsellor! He thought I was just involved working with the therapy writers' groups and abused kids! (Yeah, right! A doc not even questioning what someone he assumed was using was doing working with them - but then, that is users for you!) 

I'd mentioned often aspects of the work I did with both offenders and therapy writing etc., but he was so out of it, he couldn't have taken it in.

It materialised that he was on suspension for alcohol and substance misuse. I understand he deteriorated quickly and dropped out of circulation. Died a few months later, which was sad. He couldn't have been much more than in his early fourties. There was nothing that I could have done to have helped him, he wasn't ready to get help and hadn't got a problem anyway, as far as he knew. He liked to be the life and soul of any gathering, but often had spells of depression when we'd not set eyes on him for ages. What a waste.
 

Offline Karen W.

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That is so very sad!
 

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