Integrative Approaches to Mastering Wellness

Physician Trauma

Mar 26, 2023
In the medical profession, we talk a lot about helping patients manage the trauma that they are moving through.
But we never talk about our own trauma... as if, somehow, by being physicians, we are immune to it or above it.
Many of have experienced childhood trauma. For some, this was a driving factor that led us into medicine in the first place.
Many, if not all of us, experience trauma during our training or as attendings.
And yet... we are advised to maintain complete  objective detachment throughout, as a way to protect ourselves, protect our patients, and even protect the patients we see after the one where we experienced the trauma in the first place.
Overtime, it creates a persona that is deceiving - someone who can handle anything and it never touches them.
Some of us end up often shelving these feelings... leaving them unprocessed and festering. Sometimes it spills out when we are alone and sounds like self-hate. Sometimes it spills out at work or during family time, in the form of irritability or frustration that is out of proportion to what is happening in the present.
No matter what it might look like, it's okay to admit that there have been traumatic events in our lives. It's also okay to let go of some of this objective detachment.
We humans are hard-wired for social connection and when we drop that out of the equation - whether it comes to connecting with our patients, or connecting with family/friends - it leaves us feeling socially isolated. Objective detachment can be dehumanizing, because we deny ourselves some very human feelings. We deny ourselves the chance to heal from our trauma.
What if we gave ourselves permission for healthy connection to take place between ourselves and our patients? Can we give ourselves permission to connect with our colleagues, friends, and family? Can we be authentic in these interactions? It may give others permission to be themselves, too. It may actually mitigate feelings of burnout, increase our engagement, and increase feelings of purpose and joy in our careers. It may actually help us all to heal collectively.

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