The Sick Physician

Perhaps the most difficult of all patients to care for is the sick physician. The anxiety of sick physicians should not be underestimated. The expression ''A little knowledge is a dangerous thing'' applies to the sick physician. Every medical or nursing student goes through the ''student syndrome,'' which is the suspicion that he or she has been stricken with the disease about which he or she is learning. Imagine the anxiety that occurs when the physician actually is stricken. In addition to anxiety about health, there is the new role identification of being the patient. Physicians feel helpless and have great difficulty divorcing themselves from the role of physician. They constantly ask what the electrocardiogram shows and for the results of blood tests. They may suggest additional tests or may even disagree with the tests that have been ordered. The novice interviewer should provide ample time for the sick physician to express fears and anxieties. With the interviewer's support, sick physicians eventually recognize and accept their new role as patient.

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