Permission to mourn, anyone?

A friend shared this quote from a website called Humans of New York.  We often work in the midst of a mountain of death and suffering. Do we take time to mourn?

“Some of my colleagues tell me they can’t imagine working in pediatrics. Millions of years of evolution have conditioned us to respond to the cries of a child. We can’t bear to see a child in pain. And once we have children of our own, it makes the work even more difficult. We all handle it differently, but everyone cries at some point. Not in front of the patient, but everyone cries. Every few months we have a ceremony where we mourn all the children who have passed away. We have a slideshow. We make cards. We talk about them and remember them together. We acknowledge that we all feel the loss. And even though our grief is not as significant as the family’s, it’s not trivial either. And we must take time to acknowledge that. Or all of us will burn out.”

An article in our county medicine publication (in the US) this month underscored the same need.  It was called “Physician Burnout: Don’t Let Fatigue Lead to Failure.”  To quote: “It wreaks havoc on your life and the lives of your patients. It can tear apart your family. It can end your career.  Physician stress and burnout affects some 45 percent of doctors in the United States.”  The article goes on to quote a Mike Drummond, MD who warns, “Here’s the unspoken tragedy: If you can’t be emotionally present for your patients beause of compassion fatigue, you can’t be there for your spouse, signifigant other, children or friends either. Everyone loses when you allow yourself to be tapped out at work. But physican stress is both preventable and treatable.”  How well do we build counseling and support for ourselves as caregivers into our ministries?  How can we intentionally identify folks who are safe to talk to about these things?  In looking to shift our culture as a mission to avoid burnout and enable us to fulfill our medical ministries with some joy and fruitfulness, we need to talk with one another about these things.  I’d love to hear from you.  Paul

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Doctor, epidemiologist, husband, father, Christian missionary physician

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