Hi Dr. Nick | Issue 26

Hi Dr. Nick | Issue 26

Endings, Elephants and Empathy

As Dr John Dorian once said, “endings are never easy … We all want to believe that what we do is very important, that people hang on to our every word, that they care what we think.” This quote kick-started my imagination, and I bawled like a little bitch. While reasserting my masculinity by eating steaks and punching grizzly bears, I found myself thinking: how should I end Dr. Nick?

Should I bookend things by returning to the “find a good GP” advice from Issue 1? Should I tackle a big, dramatic topic like euthanasia or abortion? Should I finally write that column about horses and thrush? Or should I just chew through my word count with Scrubs quotes and rhetorical questions (as I currently seem to be doing)? Ultimately, I decided to finish by addressing elephants in the room.

For years, doctors didn’t ask depressed patients whether they had thought about committing suicide because they were worried it would promote it; as if it would be the first time the patient considered taking such an action. It took some very large, very expensive studies to teach them that it’s actually okay to ask about sensitive issues.

If you don’t understand somebody’s point of view on a big, dramatic issue like euthanasia or abortion, then why not ask? Ask in an appropriate way at an appropriate time, of course, but actually talk about the subject instead of dancing around it. The tension, bigotry and offence that accompany many sensitive issues often stem from an easily fixed lack of understanding.

Healthcare workers get comfortable talking about sensitive issues because they’re repeatedly exposed to them. But empathy and insight aren’t limited to doctors and nurses. Tertiary education is all about maturing, learning and developing the skills required to be a self-regulating leader of society. So while you’re taking your place in the world, ask somebody about theirs.

Bye everybody!
This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2013.
Posted 4:26pm Sunday 6th October 2013 by Dr. Nick.