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Stanford University School of Medicine

When life meets work: A resident reflects on practicing medicine during tough times

2223614126_8b9e18cab8_bDoctors are human. We all know this, yet when we're sick or down in the dumps, it's easy to forget that our care provider may be having an off day.

Patients aren't the only ones that fall into the trap of thinking their doctors are superhuman. Sometimes, as Stanford psychiatry resident Jessica Gold, MD, explains, doctors forget that they're human too. In a Huffington Post essay, Gold talks about the challenges she knew she'd face as a psychiatrist, as well as the struggles she wishes people would discuss more often and openly. She writes:

People warned me that becoming a psychiatrist would be emotionally challenging... When I chose to enter this field, I knew I had made an informed decision that I could sit with, tolerate, and empathize with other people's emotions.


Yet, here is something that isn't said enough: Your therapist and for that matter, all of your doctors, are human beings. We have break ups and make ups and deaths and births. We have unexpected catastrophes that seem unbearable to manage. We have political and personal beliefs that can feel in danger. Sometimes we don't sleep the night before, or we cry in the bathroom (or in the office with the door closed) before an appointment. We also get the flu, laryngitis, and that 'awful stomach virus' going around. But, when you arrive, we put on a 'doctor face' and do the very best we can.

Gold offers an interesting glimpse into the daily life of a physician. She also raises several questions about quality of care:

Is it my job to work and just be there, or is it my job to only be there when I am my best self? Do I need to be at 100 percent to be a good psychiatrist, or am I helpful even at 50 percent? Even still, would cancelling on my patients be worse than me being 'sort-of' present?

The answers to these tricky questions aren't clear, but talking about them, Gold says, is the first step.

Previously: Who medically needs a pet? A psychiatry resident shares her perspective
Photo by Ivascu Adriana

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