Jessica Zitter, MD, MPH
Harvard Business Review
I recently stood in front of a group of emergency room residents at my hospital and asked an unusual question. “Has any of you ever judged your attending physician for not trying hard enough to save a patient’s life?” Then I looked around the room. But like every time I’d given this presentation, there were no takers.
I can’t say I was surprised. I was piloting a new program which uses storytelling to help young doctors reflect on how they handle the emotional and psychological toll of caring for suffering patients. In my experience, engaging in honest exchange about these dimensions is rare in medical culture—in fact, it is tacitly discouraged.
“Well, let me tell you about a time when I was that attending,” I said. Then I steeled myself, and launched into my story.