Finding Empathy for Patients on a Difficult Day

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empathy 2I'm a little grumpy today. It was one of those days in clinic. Since it was the day after New Year's most specialty clinics were closed. Our office was open, so patients who had various symptoms and conditions managed by specialists were directed to our office. Our schedule maker forgot to schedule me a lunch break. The nurse's forwarded me messages that did not indicate a lot of critical thinking on their part. One patient who was fired by her psychiatrist informed me that both the psychiatrist's office and my office said that I would be able to take over prescribing her various controlled substances. It was the kind of day that made me wonder why anyone in their right mind would go into primary care.


In moments like these, I am faced with a choice. I can be ticked off for many good reasons. Or, I can rise above the frustrations and choose to be a physician. By nature of our profession, we are expected to make sacrifices. Today was hardly the only meal I've offered up for the sake of medicine. We are all recipients of patient "dumps" (which is a really unfortunate way to describe the care of a fellow human being). Our colleagues disappoint us. Our staff disappoints us. We disappoint ourselves. Medicine is hard work and each patient encounter requires your full attention, compassion, intellect, and skill.

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