Being a physician means always having to say goodbye.
When I realized that I would be moving to a different county within Southern California and would have to change jobs, I knew it would be inevitable that I would have to say goodbye to my patients. I was dreading this. I mean, really dreading it. I don’t like goodbyes. I feel as though we are breaking up, and in a way we are. Like any other relationship, my patient-physician relationships are coming to an end. And breaking up is always hard to do.
I know as a doctor, I am supposed to refrain from getting attached to my patients. But how is that possible, I mean really? I am human after all. I have been taking care of these patients for three years now. I have seen them routinely, perhaps more than some of my own family members. I have been taking care of them, their kids, their spouses, and their grandparents. I have gotten to know what their hobbies are, what they are afraid of, and perhaps their deepest, darkest secrets. I have laughed with them. And yes, I have even, on occasion, cried with them.
I broke the news to one of my patients today. And she started to sob. I mean really sob, with a fountain of tears. I didn’t know what to say or what to do, except to hug her and tell her I am so sorry. I felt as though I was abandoning her. It was difficult, I tell you. I reassured her that she will surely find another physician that she will connect well with.
In the end, I didn’t regret telling her. I knew that she needed to know, no matter how difficult it would be. I have heard of physicians leaving without saying goodbye. And I do understand why. It is because it’s not easy to say goodbye, whether we admit it or not. It’s awkward, unsettling, and emotional. Physicians aren’t ‘supposed to’ get emotional. It would certainly be much easier to sneak away without having to face mine and my patients’ emotions.
But no matter how difficult, I have to say my farewells. It is just the right thing to do, and for several reasons:
This article originally appeared as a post on the Jill of All Trades blog. The author works in “a busy clinic located in southern California, practicing everything from pediatrics to geriatrics.” Her medical interests include “teaching, patient education, women’s health, & minor surgeries and procedures.”