• Question: How do you separate your personal feelings from you professional in difficult situations?

    Asked by Harri99 to Simon, Shehla, Katharine, Jonathan, Emma, Chris on 12 Jun 2017. This question was also asked by Em.
    • Photo: Emma Rowe

      Emma Rowe answered on 12 Jun 2017:

      It is really hard sometimes, and sometimes I have felt my emotions take over. This was more so when I was a Student Nurse and it’s taken a lot to toughen me up.
      I usually try to maintain a professional but caring attitude to patients and let the patient guide me on how they feel about their situation and hold back how I would feel and let them take control of the conversation.
      But I am a human being at the end of the day and some situations are harder to deal with than others. My colleagues are always there to support me at work. Exercising, watching mindless TV and talking to my family and friends really helps me after a hard day.

    • Photo: Jonathan Harte

      Jonathan Harte answered on 12 Jun 2017:

      Good question Harri99
      Your training helps you to maintain a level of professionalism. But in many situations feeling empathy towards a situation can help rather than hinder.
      Also – try not to take your work home with you, draw a line under it for the day and do something else. That helps keep things separate.

    • Photo: Shehla Imtiaz-Umer

      Shehla Imtiaz-Umer answered on 12 Jun 2017:

      Excellent question @Harris99! This can be very difficult especially when the patient is someone you can relate in terms of background / family circumstances / age of patient/ ethnicity etc.

      I have found sick babies incredibly difficult to see because I have my own children and I think back to how lucky I am that mine are well.

      However, the most important thing is to treat the patient and then reflect on what happened at a later stage. This is even more so when there is an emergency situation and the priority is making sure the patient is well. Being able to relate to the patient, being warm, kind and caring goes a long way. Communication really is key.

      On the flip side, I have had patients be racist or xenophobic but depending on what actually is wrong with them (from a medical aspect), I try to ignore their views and go ahead and treat them anyway. It’s a fact of life and we see people from lots of different backgrounds and although extremely difficult at times, patient care takes priority – not changing their mind set! I have been known to have an occasional sob afterwards but such is life!

    • Photo: Katharine Bradbury

      Katharine Bradbury answered on 12 Jun 2017:

      It’s hard and it comes with experience. While it’s important to remain professional it’s difficult to remain completely detached especially with patients you’ve known for a long time – doctors are human too. Sometimes a situation may be very close to your own experience – for example a grieving patient if you have recently been bereaved. Acknowledging your feelings is important and it’s good to have support outside your work and colleagues/mentors you can debrief with.

    • Photo: Christopher Symonds

      Christopher Symonds answered on 13 Jun 2017:

      You can never completely separate your personal feelings however as a professional you have to provide the patient with the best treatment you can irrespective of your own feelings and beliefs. When a situation has been difficult or upsetting then the support of your family, colleagues and friends become paramount in keeping you focussed.

    • Photo: Simon Browes

      Simon Browes answered on 15 Jun 2017:

      There are times when the line between personal and professional gets very thin indeed. I couldn’t do my job if I didn’t feel empathy towards my patients. It is always important to think about the situation and its particular circumstances. There are times when personal experience can be very useful indeed. If I recognise that I am getting too personally or emotionally involved with an issue then I might step back for it and ask for advice or support from a colleague. Fortunately that is very rare.