I’m a crier. I always have been.
I well up during television commercials. Many a book has been returned to the library somewhat waterlogged by my teardrops.
I cry when I’m sad, when I’m happy, and when I’m angry. I cry when I laugh.
And I cry in front of patients.
I used to be embarrassed by this. I’d hide my tears with a tissue and a muttered excuse of “allergies.” Or I’d turn my back to wash my hands at the sink, furtively giving my eyes a swipe.
But sometime in the past few years, I stopped being ashamed of my tears. My patients come to me and share both their happiest and their most terrible moments. I’ve been honored to tell many patients that they’re pregnant. Why shouldn’t I cry with happiness at the beginning of a new life?
I’ve also had to tell too many patients that they are dying. I’ve sat with them and their families during their final hours. And if they’ve allowed me into such a sacred time in their life, why should I hide my tears from them?
I care about my patients, deeply. Some say that it’s wrong for doctors to show emotion, and that caring so much can lead to burnout. I say that’s a load of bunk.
For me, the day I stop caring enough to cry with a patient is the day I hang up my white coat and find another profession.