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Falling In Love With Patients

By Pamela Wible MD

As Jill leaves, she always says, “I love you!”

Sometimes I whisper. Other times I scream down the hall: “I love you too!”

I think it’s illegal. Or risky. I’m supposed to contain my love, to practice professional distance. But why dissociate from myself or from those I care for? Why pretend to be reserved, restrained, aloof when I’m naturally warm, affectionate, friendly?

One day during med school I decided to break the rules, to celebrate my life without shame. And on that day I fell in love with myself and I gave myself permission to fall in love with my patients, to hug and kiss them, to sing and laugh with them, to look deep into their eyes, cry, and allow our tears to flow together.

On Valentine’s Day at my first job, I admitted an elderly man dying of heart disease. His wife–unable to bear the pain of watching him die–left his side. I could have left too, but it didn’t seem right to let this guy die alone on this romantic day so I sat with him, held his hand, and cried. A cardiologist, startled by my emotion, exclaimed, “You must be a new doctor,” then disappeared down the hall. Maybe old doctors don’t cry, but I don’t want to close my heart to the world.

Why is it unprofessional to love patients? Maybe love isn’t valued in a male-dominated profession. After all, love is not easily measured or reimbursed. Love is hard to control.

About: Pamela L. Wible, MD is a pioneer of community-designed medical practices who blogs at

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Reader Comments (1)

You've raised a really touching point. I think the fact is no matter how strong we may feel we are emotionally, every time we invest our emotional energy, we give a part of ourselves away. There is a toll we pay for each tear we shed; each negative event slowly chips away at our well-being. That leaves us less room and less energy for us to deal with the stressors in our own lives, making us less able to perform at our best level. In the end, the patient is not seeking our companionship, but our expertise, for we are the ones who have the ability to save his or her life. It is our duty both to ourselves and to all our patients that we be emotionally strong and remain clear headed so we can persevere not just each day, but in this marathon we're running.

Jun 11 | Unregistered CommenterLouie

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