Doctor’s Orders: “Why I Don’t Become Overly Involved With My Patients”

What would you do if you found out one of your patients murdered her boyfriend?

After one of my physician friends shared this real-life story with me, I was pretty curious to hear what he had to say.  On a larger level, I was really asking him how he walks the tightrope of loving difficult people in his practice without becoming swallowed up in the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction lives they lead.

On the whole, I believe that most people in healthcare (and other places, ministry included) stop walking the tightrope between caring too little and caring too much.  Invariably, we end up on the “caring too little” side.  We do our job, keep our distance, and move on to the next patient.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know there are reasons.  But usually, the reasons offered seem a little self-centered and unreflective to me.

That’s why I really appreciated what my friend said.  At the end of the day, he doesn’t become overly-involved with his patients because it’s not good for them or others in his life.  In reality, he’s obeying Jesus’ call to “look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

God has called him, primarily, to medically treat the person in front of him.  He really does care about each patient, but if he gets too wrapped up in their lives, he’ll become burned out.  He won’t make good, objective decisions and may compromise his care of them.  And, he may also be distracted when he sees the next patient or his family, who also deserve his very best.

So, more or less, he treats the patient who killed her boyfriend pretty much like all his other patients.  He treats her medically to the best of his ability.  He looks for opportunities to address deeper, spiritual issues in her life as she’s open to it, praying that God brings change.  And then he leaves the results up to God, moves on, and sees his next patient.  Not because he doesn’t care, but because he does.

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About Bryan Stoudt

On my personal website (bryanstoudt.com), I help Christians follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world. I also have the privilege of helping Philadelphia's healthcare students and professionals do this as Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). More information at cmdaphiladelphia.org. On a personal note, I'm fortunate to be married to my wonderful wife, Sharon. Together, we have four fantastic children. In my spare time, I enjoy roasting coffee, running, reading and learning foreign languages.
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