” If you can’t take good care of yourself, how can you take care off your patients?”, this is what I tell my residents at least once during their training. 60 to 80 working hours a week is not taking good care of yourself nor your patients.
You can’t perform well with this schedule, you can’t be patient, you will make mistakes, especially when working long hours at a stretch. Pilots know that and doctors should as well. Tutors should be role models for residents and teach them that they are responsible for their own performance. They should discourage the macho attitude of doctors being able to work long hours, it being part of their job. It is in contempt of their responsibilities and patients entrusted in their care.
Another important topic is how a doctor can remain sensitive to the demands of his or her patients. In other words how can a doctor be empathic without loosing his professional distance necessary for good judgment and decision making. Avoiding excessive emotional involvement which can harm his care for the patient, obscure his clinical judgment.
In order to introduce medical students to this responsibility the book: The case of Dr Sachs and the film La maladie de Sachs is recommended by Josep-Eladi Baños from Barcelona, Spain. He wrote a letter to the editor of one of my favorite journals: Medical Education.
In this book and film a French doctor practising in a rural area has a “disease”.
The symptoms of his disease involve excessive worry about his work of caring for other people, to a point where he neglects to care for himself and devotes most of his time to doctoring.
Another suggestion for introducing medical students to their future activities he recommends: A Taste of My Own Medicine: When the Doctor Is the Patient
In this book and the film “The Doctor” based on this book the author describes how it feels to be diagnosed with a severe illness, along with all the feelings of uncertainty and fear.
The book is especially revealing about how a doctor might feel when he is treated as a patient and how he considers the disease from the perspective of a patient
The author of the letter to the editor recommends that it is easier to discuss the films than the literary works, the focus being the doctor-patient relationship.
The two suggested books and films are excellent teaching material for medical students on the topic off patient-doctor relationship.