Feeling Alone in Making Difficult Decisions and Diagnoses

Jon LensingJuly 08, 20203 minute read

For physicians, there can often be a sense of dread mixed with anxiety when it comes to making difficult decisions during treatment or offering tragic news to individuals regarding a diagnosis. Nobody wants to be in the position to deliver hard news or decisions, yet healthcare professionals are faced with this reality multiple times a day.

Making difficult decisions or diagnosis can lead a physician or healthcare worker to feel incredibly lonely and unable to connect with others in the midst of their struggle. The burden of caring for others can weigh heavily on healthcare professionals and may lead to a sense of suffering akin to depression, severe anxiety, burnout, and leaving the practice altogether. In an effort to escape their pain, some physicians have tragically taken their own lives.

How can a physician find help and hope when facing a difficult situation like these? Here are four ways that you can slow down, take a breath, and step forward in difficult moments:

Embrace Your Humanity

First and foremost, remember that you are human. You are not infallible, and you are likely to make numerous mistakes during your life and career. Sound harsh? Perhaps, but keeping a proper perspective is vital for helping you navigate difficult situations or delivering bad news.

Remind yourself daily that while you will do your best to provide the most hope and encouragement to your patients and their family, you are still human and not responsible for any situations that remain out of your control. Lay down the burden of any guilt you are not responsible for, and you will find that peace follows in its wake.

Communicate Clearly

One of the best practices you can implement in a high-stress career is to communicate clearly and often. Being transparent with your patients, clients, and yourself will help you make informed decisions with the knowledge that everyone involved is aware of the risks associated with a procedure or diagnosis. It may be tempting to keep the severity of a decision or diagnosis secret to protect others, but in doing so, you add an extra layer of burden to yourself in the midst of an already difficult situation. Avoid this unnecessary stress and isolation by opening yourself up to others and bring a variety of appropriate voices into the situation.

Practice Presence

One of the most helpful habits to build as a physician is the art of mindfulness and presence. By staying rooted in the current moment, you can remove the “paralysis of analysis” associated with many difficult medical situations. With mindfulness and the practice of presence, you can remove the anxiety of future events and the rise of regrets for past mistakes or choices.

An easy way to get started with this practice is by downloading a mindfulness application such as 10% Better or Calm that can lead you through short and simple mantras and breathing exercises that center you and allow you to gather yourself before heading into a difficult situation.

Find A Community

Making difficult decisions and delivering hard news is a one-way ticket to isolation and loneliness. Many physicians and healthcare professionals find that the stress of their role keeps them from being able to open up honestly to others about their struggles, and pushes them further from community.

At OpenLoop, one of our missions is to see healthcare professionals find the help and hope they need in their everyday work through a network of physicians and frontline workers who are living the same lives each and every day. You are not alone in your journey, and there are countless individuals who struggle with many of the same fears, frustrations, and a sense of failure that you do.

We are all in this together. Discover a community of individuals who can walk with you through some of life’s toughest moments at OpenLoop online.

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Jess Greiner Director, Marketing