What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine

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She is editor-in-chief and cofounder of the Bellevue Literary Review , the first literary journal to arise from a medical setting. She is the author of three collections of essays about life in medicine: Singular Intimacies , Incidental Findings , and Medicine in Translation. This is her fourth book. She lives with her husband, three children, cello, and black-lab mutt in a singularly intimate Manhattan-sized apartment.

Have you ever had experiences with medical professionals whom you considered either too emotionally attached or too detached? If you are a doctor or medical student, have you ever struggled with different approaches to handling emotion? The divide between reason and emotion is a longstanding concept in western thought.

What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine de Ofri, Danielle en Gandhi

Do you think rationality and emotion are mutually exclusive, or is this a false dichotomy? Why do you think doctors in particular are assumed to be more rational than emotional? How is insensibility or being detached as a doctor an advantage? How is it a disadvantage? Ofri writes that there is essentially no such thing as a doctor with no emotion, just doctors who choose or choose not to in varying degrees process emotions. Do you agree? The Hippocratic Oath, the Oath of Maimonides—this was what these professional oaths were written for.

What does this incident illustrate about compassion in general? How is compassion in everyday interactions different than it is in a healthcare setting? Ofri writes that empathy is easier when we have common ground with the other person. What challenges does this create when dealing with people with diverse backgrounds and life experiences? Ofri mentions a patient who exaggerates all of her symptoms.

How can differences of perspective and experience make patients and doctors disagree about diseases and treatments? Ofri mentions that some medical professionals express contempt for patients with conditions they consider at least partly self-inflicted, such as obesity or addiction.

ALiEM Bookclub: What Doctors Feel, by Dr. Danielle Ofri

Does our society in general stigmatize these conditions? Do we consider any problems to be social issues that are in fact primarily medical issues, or vice versa?

The emotional life of doctors

How does this affect people seeking treatment for these issues? The rational doctor side of us knew exactly what facts to convey to her. But the emotional, human side of us could not bring ourselves to be the conveyers of this horrible twist of fate. Ofri explains that when Julia was first diagnosed with congestive heart failure, both Ofri and her colleagues were unable to deliver Julia the bad news.

Why might doctors hesitate to give patients a terminal diagnosis? Was it wrong not to tell Julia the whole truth upfront? Ofri opens this chapter by pondering whether empathy is innate or learned. Do you think empathy is an inherent trait, learned, or a combination of both? Can empathy be taught, and if so, how? Ofri notes that the classroom years of medical school are vastly different from the clinical years.

How do the first experiences with real patient care demoralize medical students? Do other professions experience a similar discrepancy between education and work experience, or is medicine unique in this respect? This chapter shows that humor can be used to help doctors cope with stress, but gallows humor can also desensitize doctors.

Can humor help people cope with dire situations, or does it always trivialize them? When you are in a patient role, do you prefer that doctors use their usual medical jargon or that they simplify their language instead? How does the use of medical jargon or simplified language affect your patient experience? How does Julia's status as an undocumented immigrant complicate her medical care? Can you think of other groups of people who often fall through the cracks or are ignored in our health care system?

Have you ever latched onto hope despite odds that seem stacked against you? Was it helpful or detrimental?


  • This Silent Earth.
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Do you think it was right for Ofri, as a doctor, to favor hope over reality? Does the goal of thinking rationally about survival odds deprive patients of hope? It may be most palpable and expressible in neophyte students and interns, but that is the merely the first bead in a chain that wends its way throughout the life of a doctor. It may be sublimated at times, it may wax and wane, but the fear of harming your patients never departs; it is inextricably linked to the practice of medicine. In academic and work settings, many people thrive on stress and adrenaline. Do you find that stress makes you more or less productive?

If your reaction to stress is unpredictable, how could this affect your job performance and your well-being?


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Medicine is one of the rare professions in which fears constantly revolve around death or endangerment. How do some of your fears help or hinder your daily life both privately and professionally? How can fear be healthy for both doctors and patients? Does fear humanize doctors, or does it make them seem incompetent?

What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine

Does it bring out arrogance? Medicine is a profession with a high level of accountability and potential for deadly error. Are there any other fields that have a similar level of responsibility? Are these stereotypes, in fact, reasonable? Do we have even more specific stereotypes about different types of healthcare professionals? To never have been held by her parents, to never have been held by anyone. It was almost beyond comprehension. Ofri describes some of the experiences that Eva, a pediatrician, had during her pediatrics internship.

Why might many medical residents repress their traumatic experiences? Can people actually compartmentalize sadness? Are there benefits to this? What negative effects does it have? How might the way a doctor deals or does not deal with grief directly impact patient care? Ofri argues that a crucial aspect of navigating grief is to acknowledge it. Everyone has experienced grief for a loved one, but have you ever been sad over the death of a stranger? This leads her to refrain from diagnosing Down syndrome in one of her patients shortly after birth in order to give the parents time to bond with their newborn.

Is it ever OK to withhold information or a diagnosis, and if so, when? How is withholding the suspicion of a disability different than hesitating to give a life-threatening diagnosis, as Ofri did with Julia? In describing her grief over the death of Mr. Edwards, Ofri compares grief to love, writing that the human capacity to grieve can expand just like its capacity to love. Please also indicate if you would like a hard or electronic copy.

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The Criterion Collection Anime. Ofri, Danielle Beacon Press Idioma ENG. Sinopsis While much has been written about the minds and methods of the medical professionals who save our lives, precious little has been said about their emotions. Digging deep into the lives of doctors, Dr. Danielle Ofri examines the daunting range of emotions--shame, anger, empathy, frustration, hope, pride, occasionally despair, and Danielle Ofri examines the daunting range of emotions--shame, anger, empathy, frustration, hope, pride, occasionally despair, and sometimes even love--that permeate the contemporary doctor-patient connection.