Hospitals Helping Doctors Cope With Emotions

Posted at 7:44 PM, May 12, 2016

Hospitals around the country and in Tennessee are working with their doctors to help them cope after dealing with stressful and emotional situations. 

A hospital can be a place where you receive great news, like the birth of a child, and unfortunately a place where you can receive devastating news, and that news is usually delivered by a doctor. 

"One of the things that can be really stressful as a healthcare professional is sharing bad news with a family member or a patient." Dr. William Cooper with Vanderbilt University Medical Center said, adding that when doctors show emotion or compassion, sometimes it can help patients cope, knowing that their doctor cares, but it can also impact the patient's negatively. "Patients will often make observations about their encounters with healthcare professionals that signal that something's not exactly right."

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has specialized training for doctors based on the stresses they may face on a day-to-day basis, and they also have wellness resources, encouraging their doctors to come forward if they're having emotional troubles. 

"We recognize that people need to be able to say, 'I'm not okay. I may need help.'" Cooper said. 

According to a recent study , burnout rates among pediatrics residents at Seattle Children's Hospital range from 41% to 77% depending on their year of residency. While that's just one hospital, it models the industry.

At Vanderbilt, doctors are monitored to make sure they're alright, and if there's a noticeable change in a doctor's behavior and something could be off, the doctor is taken aside to address the problem. 

"If I'm a healthcare professional and somebody tells me they're concerned about my performance, it may not feel so great, but in the end we find that physicians really benefit from having surveillance, being able to connect to resources that can help them." Cooper explained. 

Only 3% of physicians account for 60% of staff complaints, and Cooper found through his won research that when those doctors are given help, they almost always correct the problem.

"If you can't take care of yourself, it really makes it more difficult to take care of your patients." Cooper said. 

While being a doctor is a very stressful job that can play with your emotions, Cooper said many doctors just need a minute to take a deep breath, then they're able to move on with their day. 

With all of the new support systems in place, Cooper said it is now seen as acceptable, and it is even encouraged for those struggling to open up about their feelings.