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Aibu to cry about a patient?

(54 Posts)
Gpreceptionist Sat 23-Jan-16 14:49:46

I work on reception [details removed] at a busy GP surgery and I try to do my best for all our patients. I will go out of my way to help, especially in a crisis, and I empathise with anyone who is upset - even if expressed angrily.

A lady phoned yesterday and my colleague passed me the phone as she couldn't understand her. When I took it, she burst into tears and told me through sobs that her husband had died yesterday and she hadn't had time to order her medication so could she have it for later that evening.

She kept saying sorry and I told her it was absolutely fine, adopted a soothing voice, asked if she had anyone with her (her daughter) as I was so worried. I've never heard anyone sound so sad, it broke my heart.

I got her meds sorted and asked a GP to phone her.

Now I'm trying to study for an exam [details removed] and I can't focus. I keep hearing her saying "my husband died" and the horrible, devastated crying. In the moment, I had to get back to work and be professional. But now I'm at home I've had a little bit of a cry over it and she has definitely stayed with me. Her husband was only 45 and had cancer.

Aibu? Maybe being too emotionally involved?

CultureSucksDownWords Sat 23-Jan-16 14:54:29

No, I think it's reasonable to have a human reaction to another human's great distress. I'd think it odd if you hadn't given it another thought tbh. Compassion and empathy is a good thing for a doctor to have!

Im sure the immediacy of it will fade and you'll be able to concentrate on your studies soon.

CakeFail Sat 23-Jan-16 14:55:12

No yanbu. That's terribly sad. Poor lady - nearly having a wee cry myself here!

You sound like you've done what you can for her and do a great job which you clearly are passionate about. flowers

hmcAsWas Sat 23-Jan-16 14:57:03

I think you will make a wonderful doctor because you are clearly empathetic and caring.

Purplepicnic Sat 23-Jan-16 15:02:46

I'd be more worried if you weren't bothered by it.

If you're going to be a doctor, I'd guess there's a lot of this ahead of you. Most of it you'll deal with but there'll be a few that get to you and you won't forget. And that's normal.

TheRealBarenziah Sat 23-Jan-16 15:28:24

You sound lovely OP smile This is normal - as previous posters have said, it's a sign that you're compassionate and empathetic. I am a GP registrar (ST3) and I still cry about patients sometimes. I was involved with a difficult case before Christmas and when she died I was quite shaken for a day or two. Over time, you will become better at empathising with patients' grief while keeping a healthy distance, but even then sometimes things slip through the cracks. Good luck with your studies flowers

LaurieFairyCake Sat 23-Jan-16 15:30:48

It's totally normal. I cry at something like a John Lewis advert (as well as real, human distress).

When I was a Samaritan I cried often (afterwards)

ScarlettDarling Sat 23-Jan-16 15:34:24

Totally normal, you have a heart and you care. I'm sure that you will find it easier to deal with sad stuff like this the more you come across it, as you undoubtedly will in your career as a doctor, but things like this should affect you.

Gpreceptionist Sat 23-Jan-16 16:12:47

Thanks everyone - I'm relieved that you've been so kind about it. I was ready to be told off about boundaries etc.

When I worked in a hospital at 19, my superintendent told me off for crying after a cardiac arrest and assured me I'd "harden up" over time. It was an elderly lady who collapsed on my first week on placement, I had no useful skills so just gave her history and name and held her hand. She eventually squeezed my hand back when they resuscitated her. The other students weren't bothered but they weren't really involved. It has always stuck with me and made me feel a bit of a wuss.

I cried because I was sent back to work in the middle of the crash call and didn't know if she had ultimately lived or died. I tried to suppress it, and when my superintendent asked why I wasn't my normal self the floodworks opened. She was really shocked it had bothered me and a bit embarrassed for me.

onesteptotheleftofme Sat 23-Jan-16 16:20:14

From the pov of a bereaved patient i adore my GP receptionists who remembeer my loss (my son), treat me with compassiom and forewarned m;dwives and drs before appointments so i didnt have to explain.
Other people caring makes an enormous difference to me, so no, you are not being unreasonable, you are being wonderful.

shouldnthavesaid Sat 23-Jan-16 16:28:30

Not unreasonable at all. I'm an auxiliary nurse and I remember holding a 49 year old man as he howled - his partner had succumbed to cancer, he was diagnosed as terminal too 6 months later. It was awful, I was in tears with him. Have had many patients that I will never forget for a variety of reasons. I think we all go into these jobs because we care and want to do something, it would be odd if we didn't get teary at times.

In terms of the arrest. I always remember when my mum had a seizure at my surgery - I went through to the waiting room where she was and both my GP (with 24 years of experience under her belt) and another looked completely shell shocked. I think things just get to you sometimes. I know a colleague once had counselling after a particularly horrible arrest (late stage specticemia in a teenager).

U2HasTheEdge Sat 23-Jan-16 16:34:52

I'm an auxiliary nurse too (although we aren't allowed to call ourselves that) and some patients really get to you.

If I ever stop caring about other's struggles then I know it's time to move on.

MiscellaneousAssortment Sat 23-Jan-16 16:47:42

I hope you find a way to remain in touch with patients and their joys and tragedies, whilst tending to your own wellbeing. Making sure to know your emotions and what you can do to replenish your own reserves, and put in boundaries so that you don't burn out.

But i'd really caution against this idea that you are somehow not as competent, strong as others, or that you need to imitate the coldly detached attitude which is becoming standard throughout so many parts of the NHS.

Compassion fatigue is a massive issue in the NHS, partly due to the pressures and unkindness that is shown to staff themselves (which is horrendous), and partly in some places, it appears to be encouraged as an appropriate way to behave (which is truly awful and also dangerous, not to mention unpleasant).

Thick skins of the sort that may have once been a protective mechanism, but have become so hard nothing and no one can ever move them... Or in fact be identified as anything other than an annoying and unwanted task in the way of whatever that person really wants to do (like go home, have a tea break, fill in paperwork, etc etc). That level of objectification becomes a liability and as a barrier to being able to do a good job. If it stops people from being able to relate to their fellow human beings, then the way is open for accepting fellow HCPs cruelty, and beyond.

I think it's ok to let patients situations touch you, as long as you have a way of making sure it doesn't break you, or dominate your live.

For me, it's when HCPs stand by and watch shockingly bad 'treatment' (or lack of), inhumanity and abusiveness with complete detachment, that's when there is a problem. And for those people, who walk around oblivious of others pain and suffering, even when it's in their power to stop it, those are the people who have ended up letting their attitude have the most (negative) effect on their inner selves.

Even as they pretend that it's 'professional' or even just 'normal', they are harming themselves so much more than the person who is strong enough to see patients as actual thinking, feeling human beings, and can deal with that, the sad endings as well as the happy ones... Those are the people are both amazingly strong and deserve respect and who are amazingly good at their jobs.

shebird Sat 23-Jan-16 16:50:55

I will never forget the kindness and compassion shown by doctors and nurses when by DNiece passed away. Seeing that they were also upset showed that they really cared and made the hospital more human and less clinical. While I understand the need to be professional in these cases it is only human nature to be affected when someone is going through such a great loss.

problembottom Sat 23-Jan-16 16:53:13

You sound great at your job to me. 45 is no age, it's desperately sad and I'm not surprised it upset you.

ChampaleSocialist Sat 23-Jan-16 16:55:34

YANBU. Your feelings are not affecting your work or spoiling your off time. I'm in and out of hospital a lot and loathe being treated by the hardened people. I think you'll make a great and very humane doctor, best of luck with your studies. flowers

greenfolder Sat 23-Jan-16 16:56:52

My ddad died at 63. He had a series of strokes and a heart attack before coming back to the UK. I had a conversation with his consultant where I basically said not to resuscitate him as it was not want he would have wanted. Hardest conversation of my life helped by the fact that consultant had tears in his eyes as he agreed. Never lose your compassion

sugar21 Sat 23-Jan-16 17:01:56

In the case of my daughter's death 2 of the doctors actually came to her funeral. They were both young junior doctors and I really appreciated them coming
At dds death I can't quite remember who did what as I think I've blocked it out. What I do remember is the Dr who had to tell me that dd had died was crying herself.
She is only human with feelings and she was in the church with her colleague.
They had actually taken time out of their busy lives to come and they were as upset as everyone else
Dedicated drs who I appreciate.

Pipistrella Sat 23-Jan-16 17:04:24

Oh that is very sad OP.

When I was young, my boyfriend's dad got cancer and he died when he was 44. It was the first time someone I really loved, someone I properly knew, had died - relatives had died but I only knew them when they were very old, and didn't feel it so intensely.

I was crying about it still the other day, watching a programme about a guy who looks just like him.

I think it's healthy to cry. You will not cry for ever, just now and then. It's Ok.

WorraLiberty Sat 23-Jan-16 17:18:02

Gosh I hope this poor woman doesn't turn to Mumsnet for advice and stumble across this thread sad

Unlikely I suppose, but not impossible.

Gpreceptionist Sat 23-Jan-16 17:18:43

You are all wonderful smile. You've made me feel a lot better. I'm going to refer to this thread throughout my career I imagine! There's often a lot of debate in the medical literature about showing emotion and whether it's okay to cry. Obviously, there is a need to be professional and able to support the patient, but your stories have shown that empathy is such a help in incredibly sad times. At 19, I was far too shy to stand my ground against my "tough" boss, but I think now I'm older and able to manage my emotions at work I'll hang on to my sensitive streak, and use it to help my patients smile

Thanks for sharing all of your stories - I am sorry for the loss of your loved ones, and really appreciate you telling me about them.

ChatEnOeuf Sat 23-Jan-16 17:21:03

Please don't stop being upset when horrible things happen to your patients. It keeps you human in what can be a fairly inhumane system. I'm a NICU reg and I cry every single time I lose a patient. Not to the extent that I can't go back to the unit and continue to care for the other babies, but it's a natural reaction. You'll get better at taking a deep breath and carrying on, but you shouldn't feel the need to 'toughen up'. Taking a moment to acknowledge that sometimes life deals people a really shitty hand and that it affects you can be a really positive thing. Write down how you feel, use it in your studies (you'll have to get good at reflective practice, start now!)

I'm also a bereaved parent, it really mattered to me that my obstetrician cried when my son was stillborn. He cared.

PurpleHairAndPearls Sat 23-Jan-16 17:31:42

Of course it's never unreasonable to feel distress for someone who has been bereaved or similar. Compassion and empathy would help any HCP, I imagine.

It is however unreasonable to post about patients and their circumstances on the Internet and I'm a little surprised no one has said this already.

PurpleHairAndPearls Sat 23-Jan-16 17:32:03

Sorry worra I see you did too.

Kittymum03 Sat 23-Jan-16 17:34:24

OP,you sound lovely!
I used to work in a dementia carehome,we had a young persons unit.Our youngest came in,she was 46.I was more used to being with the older residents,who had Grand & Great grandchildren to visit.
One day,her husband came in with a young boy.I took them a cup of tea.Boy is colouring on the floor.So I say 'Would your Grandson like a drink?' Few seconds silence before she croaks out 'He's my Son' It was then like a slow motion scene from a film as I look around the room noticing bookbag,school uniform,lunch box.He can't of been more than 12.I still remember how uterly heartbroken I felt for them in that moment.
I apologised,remained professional,and they were fine.I held it together for the rest of the shift.Then I sobbed.For most of the half an hour walk home.I just kept thinking 'He's her Son.She's so young.He's lost his mum.It's not fair' That day upset me more than any other,I worked there for Ten years.
It makes us human flowers

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