I was a nurse before I was a doctor. My undergraduate degree in nursing was from a top academic university in the U.S. From the very beginning, the emphasis was on the relationship between the nurse and the patient, the patient’s emotional reaction to illness, and the nurse’s emotional reaction to caring for an individual who is ill or dying. We were encouraged to be completely open about our emotions. We were also taught how to be caring and communicate our caring to the patient.
I went to medical school at the very same university. From the beginning, I was laughed at for showing any emotions or caring for my patients as individuals. The training was completely cognitive. The goal was to know all the answers and to be as accurate and clear on your 36th hour of work as you were on your first.
The role models were doctors who were tough, overworked and proud of it. They were emotionally removed from everyone.
No one ever told you to be objective or distant. However, you were shamed if you ever slipped and showed your feelings.
I believe that neither doctors nor nurses can be helpful as caregivers if they are not motivated by, and in touch with, a deep passion to serve others. This, in my opinion, requires deep knowledge and acceptance of oneself, emotions included. As you can see, medical education does not provide doctors with any tools for self-knowledge or resilience.
My programs for doctors, and my individual treatment as well, always starts with eliminating the distortions learned in training, and providing a safe path toward self-knowledge.