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The New England Journal of MedicinePerspective: A Reason to Retire?

Exploring the Changing Dynamics of Physician-Patient Relationships Over Time

This article delves into the profound transformation a physician undergoes as they age, particularly in relation to their patients. It explores the shift from objectivity to empathy, the impact of personal health risks, and the emotional toll of identifying with patients’ illnesses.

HCN Medical Memo
This introspective journey offers valuable insights for healthcare professionals. It underscores the importance of empathy in patient care, while also highlighting the emotional challenges that come with it. As healthcare professionals, understanding this dynamic can help us navigate our own careers and provide better care for our patients.

Key Points

  • The author reflects on his career in cardiology and how his perspective changed as he aged.
  • He discusses the compartmentalization of illness in his early career, viewing patients as a separate species.
  • As he aged, he found it harder to maintain this distinction and began to feel the extra-medical aspects of their illnesses.
  • The COVID pandemic intensified this shift, adding personal risk of infection to the stress of treating patients.
  • The author found satisfaction in building relationships with his patients, despite the emotional toll it took.
  • He questions whether more personal relationships with patients would have made him less effective professionally.

“It is not enough to understand, to sympathize; you must have within you an echo of what is being felt.”
– Henri-Frédéric Amiel

More on the Physician-Patient Relationship

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