Published on: April 26, 2023

A Perspective from Patients and Caregivers

Chitra Goyal writes:

In the midst of the usual, mundane everyday life, everything changes in a flash when you suddenly discover you have a dreadful life-threatening illness. Your world crumbles beneath you, leaving you feeling devastated, frightened, and uncertain about the future. That important meeting you were preparing so hard for seems of no relevance. That anxiety of your daughter making it to the best engineering college seems like a trivial matter. That holiday plan with your family you had been looking forward to is instantly forgotten. All these and many other anxieties and excitements you once held dear seem completely insignificant compared to this new reality. How you wish it was a mere nightmare or a wrong report. You just want it undone at any expense. You brood, sulk, and wallow in self-pity, asking yourself, “Why me?” with no easy answer in sight.

Your loved ones who are equally shocked try to comfort you, putting aside their own trauma associated with your illness. Holding back their own emotional turmoil, they give you the requisite love and reassurance. In times like these, the support of your loved ones is invaluable, but the assurance that matters most comes from your doctor. A doctor plays a crucial role in not only treating you physically but also providing emotional support during such a difficult time. You search for empathy and kindness, without compromising on honesty, from your doctor.

While you may be just one of many patients with similar or worse conditions for your doctor, your own experience is unique and life-altering. It has transformed your outlook on everything, and you yearn for your doctor to acknowledge your anxieties and prioritize your well-being. You want to know the extent of the illness, but in a compassionate manner. You want the doctor to apprise you of the path ahead, giving you the confidence to face it boldly. A correct diagnosis and prognosis are essential but you also search their eyes for that hope, you miss a heartbeat if they pause for a few extra seconds, that little smile on their face lifts up your spirits. It may be difficult for doctors to fully grasp the significant impact their words and gestures have on the psyche of a patient. Simple phrases such as ‘you’re doing well’ can bring as much joy and comfort to a patient as a star sticker on a child’s hand from a teacher as a reward for good work. You want to hear those magic words, “I am here for you.”

The life of a doctor is tough and demanding. They are expected to handle a plethora of repetitive, illogical questions and maintain their calm. In countries like India, where patient volumes are high, there is often enormous work pressure and no regard for doctors’ personal time, leading to irritability and callousness. However, unlike other professions, doctors do not have the choice to lose their calm. They must display basic bedside hygiene and empathy towards their patients, as “service to mankind” is the motto of medical practitioners.

The emotional toll on doctors is also significant. They are trained to develop expertise in their area of specialization, but are they adequately prepared to handle high levels of psychological pressure? Would regular therapy sessions be helpful in rejuvenating and reminding them of their moral and emotional responsibilities?

Similarly, patients suffering from life-threatening medical conditions should undergo mandatory psychological therapy sessions to understand and accept the extent of their disease. This could save tremendous time and effort spent by doctors in getting patients to comprehend their situation. In conclusion, while medical expertise is crucial in treating physical ailments, empathy, and emotional support from doctors and patients alike are vital components in the healing process. A little bit of kindness and reassurance can go a long way in making someone’s difficult journey more manageable.

Chitra Goyal is a well educated woman in her 50’s, possessing a compassionate and observant nature that is reflected in her expressive writing. She has had extensive caregiving experiences, tending to her family members through their various health challenges, including her father’s cancer and mother’s lung disease. In addition to this, Chitra has personally dealt with the grief of experiencing four miscarriages during the early years of her life. Through her personal experiences, Chitra has gained an in-depth understanding of the medical profession, closely interacting with doctors on multiple occasions. Utilizing her unique perspective and expertise, Chitra has penned this insightful blog with the aim of benefiting the public.

5 responses to “Empathy and Emotional Support, The Healing Force:”

  1. Indu Singh Bakshi M D says:

    The article beautifully summarizes our intense and deep seated anxiety related to illnesses and fear of death , no doubt you want the person most equipped to deal with it give you some solace and make the journey easy for you . Sometimes the physician can provide it sometimes it’s beyond them too .I appreciate Chitras effort in bringing to light this difficult discussion and raising awareness from stand point of patient as well as physician .

  2. Pam says:

    Very well expressed Chitra. I can relate to each and every word and thoughts. Truly the understanding of the doctor plays a great role in the patient’s well being. Family and friends have a lot to contribute to the well-being of a person. Just tfeeling that everyone around you are there for you is enough to ignite in you a will to survive 🤗

  3. Gayatri says:

    Beautifully penned…Chitra !
    The depth of emotions in your write up is truly intense and I’m sure this insight will be so much welcome by doctors in different fields …even as you say that they are overwhelmed with different challenges . But this perspective is a sweet gestured reminder that their patients look for strength from their doctors to a large extent !

  4. Nupur Sood says:

    An insightful article. Draws attention to an extremely pertinent subject to better mange patient mental and physical health. Positivity and manifestation play a near magical role in palliative care. Totally resonate with you on that. Keep spreading this wisdom of understanding and empathy . You are doing great service Chitra. More power to you ❤️

  5. Chitra says:

    It is heartening to see that you all could relate to this piece. Thank you all so much. I feel sometimes just a reminder is needed to make one realise the importance of their gestures and that’s what I tried to do. Hoping to generate a positive change.