How should oncologists deal with emotional stress?

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InNotOf

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I've wondered just how oncologists should deal with the emotional stress associated with their jobs, people dying, etc. On one hand, it isn't good to bottle things up, but it can't be that great either to unload that stress onto family/friends who aren't in the field. I recently talked to two oncologists in similar career stages about this.

Dr. A - Married, w/ kids, says that he prefers to compartmentalize his career from his personal life and not bring up the dying patient stuff around his family. Says he doesn't think it's healthy, but not sure there's an alternative.

Dr. B - Single, no family, she seems more reflective about what she encounters w/ patients and willing/able to devote more of herself to her job (not in a workaholic way, per se, but emotionally). On the surface seems like a more healthy approach, but given the absence of family I wonder if she has a support network of any kind.

So which approach is healthier? Clearly there are multiple variables in the above comparison - male vs. female, married vs. single, ability to put more into caring for patients, but how do you think oncologists should approach the daily struggles of their profession?
 

SaltySqueegee

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I've wondered just how oncologists should deal with the emotional stress associated with their jobs, people dying, etc. On one hand, it isn't good to bottle things up, but it can't be that great either to unload that stress onto family/friends who aren't in the field. I recently talked to two oncologists in similar career stages about this.

Dr. A - Married, w/ kids, says that he prefers to compartmentalize his career from his personal life and not bring up the dying patient stuff around his family. Says he doesn't think it's healthy, but not sure there's an alternative.

Dr. B - Single, no family, she seems more reflective about what she encounters w/ patients and willing/able to devote more of herself to her job (not in a workaholic way, per se, but emotionally). On the surface seems like a more healthy approach, but given the absence of family I wonder if she has a support network of any kind.

So which approach is healthier? Clearly there are multiple variables in the above comparison - male vs. female, married vs. single, ability to put more into caring for patients, but how do you think oncologists should approach the daily struggles of their profession?

Dr. A is going to burn out.

Dr. B will likely do okay due to the reflective nature of 'her' life. Despite not having a classical family per se, one can get by in life if their attitude is in the right place. i.e. don't compartmentalize, but reflect and be flexible and try to be understanding. Some people can take, others cannot adapt...

At least that's my opinion.

Regards,

-Salty
 

salmonella

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I think the best approach is to channel all your sympathy, sadness, depressed feelings into something constructive, ie cancer research, reading journal articles, see more patients, rather than sitting at home alone and crying yourself out. The depressed feelings all originate from patient dying secondary to ineffective treatments, so you should fight the source of your depression (to do everything you can to fight cancer). That way you will feel better psychologically.
 

Tapout

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Mixed Martial Arts...no better way.
 

Ubadub

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If you had to guess, how many are there in the field?
 

texashemonc

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I'm a med student, and have always considered oncology. I have met few people like me, and I have learned little after my first year of school. Can someone sum up the real simple for me...

What do you do? I know it's care for the dying, but can you describe the day to day a bit. Talk to me like a child here, please. So you don't do radiation, but what exactly do you do?

How competitive is it? I'm in an average AAMC school with average grades. Will Step 1 matter a lot? I have done research in neuro, does it matter that it hasn't been onco? Will residency placement matter a lot? What are the biggest factors?

No idea how competitive these days as I went through this 10 years ago. I think doing plenty of rotations during residency and going to decent IM program is important though.

How do you integrate the fact that cancer seems to have a very real association between mental health and positive outcomes in your treatment? Do you educate patients that there are cases of people with seemingly terminal cancers who can turn it around and eliminate it without any Western aid? Do you worry that Western medicine misses a part of the "spiritual" element of treating cancer?

Every oncologist has seen patients who surprisingly do well and others who fail everything we throw at them. I do agree that positive mental attitude helps though.
So, to end, do you find your job satisfying? What kind of person do you think does best in the field?

My job is satisfying. I have been in private practice for 5 years doing both hematology and oncology. It's certainly not an easy one and hours are long.
Financially oncologists have taken major hits in last 3 years so don't go into this profession for money as it will certainly be different in 5 years.
 
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