Managing Grief for Healthcare Professionals

Publisher: physicianspractice
Author: Debra A. Shute
Original publishing date: September 23, 2019

“(As physicians, we) really hold ourselves to an irrational sense of responsibility for all things. You think you should have been able to see it coming”

Physicians are responsible for treating patients and helping them recover but some outcomes are not in their control. For a healthcare professional, the loss of a patient is accompanied by feelings of failure and guilt along with grief. Their profession does not allow them to deal with these feelings at the moment they occur, and they are often shoved away. This accompanied by the fact that expressing emotions is stigmatized in the medical profession makes it more important for healthcare professionals to have a healthy way to deal with grief.

“If you are constantly trying to keep yourself well, even when things get really bad, you’re not going to fall apart.”

One way to cope with grief is through self-care, however, it should be practiced continually, not only when a traumatic incident is experienced. Having a hobby or doing some activity outside work helps one to relax and not think about stressful things. Feelings of failure not only affect the healthcare professionals but also their work, exercising self-care can help deal with these emotions, preventing the consequences.

“It’s (professional counseling) one venue where you’re allowed to talk about your case without consequence.”

Overcoming malpractice grief is especially hard because in this case, one’s expertise in the field is questioned. Talking about one’s case and feelings can help prevent panic attacks while professional counseling settings also allow one to talk about their concerns without judgment.

The article encourages healthcare professionals to recognize the feelings that accompany their grief and deal with them in a realistic, self-compassionate manner using self-care.

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