Viewpoint: Why physicians should embrace tears

Mackenzie Bean - Print  | 

Crying is often seen as an "extreme emotional behavior" that is frowned upon in the medical world, according to Jalal Baig, MD, a hematology/oncology physician at the University of Illinois at Chicago. However, tears demonstrate a physician's humanity and show that disease is a shared experience, he wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

Dr. Baig said an emotional exchange is inevitable when human beings care for other human beings. He recalled the first time he cried in a patient room, while examining a 31-year-old man with a terminal brain tumor and three children under the age of 5.

"At that moment, I felt something that I had never experienced before inside a patient's room: tears in my eyes," he wrote. Dr. Baig said the tears allowed him to unload years of grief he had been taught to bottle up as a physician.

Now, Dr. Baig embraces grief and tears, saying it makes him a better physician.

"Instead of diminishing me as a physician, I am left with a more nuanced perspective on life, a greater appreciation for medicine’s fallibilities and boundaries, and a renewed commitment to my patients," he wrote.

To read the full op-ed, click here.

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