Bearers of bad news

When your time consists mainly of recycling facts, it becomes surprisingly easy to transition into a binary state – either you’re learning, or you’re sleeping. While that operative mode allows us medical students increased efficiency, it also behooves us to reconnect with our more human sides.

Thankfully, once a week, we participate in a course called Principles of Clinical Medicine (PCM), or, as I like to call it, “How To Be a Good Doctor 101.” From week one, PCM guides us through the bigger picture of medicine, patient care, and how we, as future health care providers, can optimally function in it.

Recently, PCM tackled one of the more challenging topics for physicians – death. Once a patient passes away, the challenge of medical knowledge and knowhow disappears. There are no more labs to be drawn, no more tests to be done. Suddenly, we are extracted from the world of clinical medicine and deposited into the real world of emotions, subtleties and unfortunate realities. For those of us more comfortable padded by our knowledge of the human body, standing bare, our intellectual armor stripped by a patient’s death, is frightening.

Yet, it remains something we must do; indeed, something we must be good at doing.

During our PCM small groups, we confidentially shared stories of loss, grief, and death in a solemn and sometimes tearful environment. If that sounds sad, that is exactly how it should be. Death isn’t something to dodge with joviality, but rather grappled with, however messy it can be. Though those small groups were uncomfortable at times, I’m thankful we learned from each others’ stories and had the opportunity to reconnect with our more human sides.

Now, when it becomes our turn to become bearers of bad news, there is some reassurance that we may bear it right.

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Comments

  1. Hello Roheet,
    It is not an easy task to be the bearer of bad news but it seems clear to me while reading this, you will be very sincere and bear it as “right” as possible.
    It is nice to hear from medical students, the “intellectual armor” can indeed be penetrated with sorrow and compassion as doctors can sometimes be detected as callous.
    Tamara

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Ever wondered what life is like as a student at OHSU? What does it take to become a researcher? Just how gross is gross anatomy? Welcome to the blog that answers these – and many other – questions. It’s students writing first-hand about their commitment to careers in science and health care. It’s honest about the challenges as well as the joys. It’s not always pretty. But it is our story. Thank you for sharing it with us. And please, let us know what you think.

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