Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Guest Post: Cry

“Don’t EVER let them see you cry. Not the attendings, and NEVER the nurses.....This will make you look weak and they will walk all over you.” This is what my chief resident told me on my first night of call as an OB/GYN intern 7 years ago today. She meant well, but since she was the main person inducing my tears, I mainly just found her to be mean. I grew to respect her as the year went passed. I’ve thought of her advice many times since, but I never learned to control my tears.

I cried when I was 24 weeks pregnant and had to deliver a patient at 24 weeks, then later pronounce its time of death.

I cried my first day back from maternity leave. The first shift was a nasty call as a 3rd year resident. I didn’t get to see my baby for 36 hours. Luckily, a wise attending pulled me aside and told me she had cried too with each baby. That it would get easier, and it did. I held him and cried for an hour when I got home that next day.

I cried when my son was 2 months old and diagnosed with an autosomal recessive genetic disorder. I was told he would be blind (he’s not) and I should not have more children (I haven’t). I was on call that night after the doctor's visit. I did 3 ectopics. I cried through each one.

I cried once when my vacation got cancelled as an intern (that one, of course, is a pretty lame reason).

I always cry when I watch girl movies.

I still shed a tear when the dad cries at delivery. (anyone else?)

I cried tears of relief when I passed my oral boards.

I cried when I had to tell a friend/patient she had yet another missed AB.

I cried when Charlie died (on Lost).

I cried on my last day of my OB/GYN rotation as a med student. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it and how much I would miss the service. I realized then, that despite being president of the family practice club, I had a new calling. The most amazingly wonderful job in the world. So, sorry Chief, I have let them see me cry. I‘m not weak. I just still have a heart.

-An OB/GYN in Nashville.


  1. Thank you for this. I cried reading your blog. Yes, I cried at many of the things you mentioned, including just thinking about going back to work after my first child was born. Then I cried the entire drive to work on that first day back. It did get easier, but it's still not easy to leave in the mornings. These are the choices we make as mothers in medicine.

  2. Thanks so much for this! I have a very hard time not crying about some things, especially when I'm really angry or feel as if some injustice is being done. I've worked on various coping techniques to keep it form happening in a business situation, but I still struggle with it. Some people don't get it and are just "don't ever cry". Much easier said than done.

  3. thank you so much for writing this. i have had doctors cry while holding me because they shared my sadness when my mom died. all the things you described are very moving to me, and make me wish i had been able to become a physician (i was busy with another career til i was 40, and then it was time to send MY kids to college, so i basically couldn't afford to do it). i will remember your words and the heart behind them. - kcd

  4. I am so glad to read this post and know I'm not alone. I cry at the drop of a hat, and there are medical situations where I just have to cry. I cried when a patient I'd talked to every day for 2 weeks coded in front of me and never regained circulation; I had to round for the rest of the day with the telltale red eyes and nose. I'm linking this at my blog. Thank you for this.

  5. Your post made me teary-eyed remembering all those things that I also experienced.

    My father (a physician) also told me never to let other see me cry at work. I failed at that. I cried during my first call as an intern. I cried during almost every call I had in the ICU. I still remember a nurse saying about a coding patient who we were about to lose, "His daughter wants to hold his hand as he goes." And I just lost it.

    I try to hide it these days. The last time I cried at work was when I got yelled at for something I inadvertently did wrong on a call, and I did it hiding in the bathroom.

  6. I remember the first time I cried with a patient, it was the first time I truly let myself 'be' in the moment at work and didnt' try to hide behind the white coat. thank you for this.

  7. A tear comes to my eye at every delivery (I've learned to hold it in!). I recently had a patient of mine die at the young age of 17, just before her 18th birthday. I cried most of that day, every time I spoke with her family, and at her funeral. I think her family appreciated that I cared so much.

  8. I totally cried when I read your post. Thanks for sharing.

    I am a crier at home, but not so much with patients. I have mainly cried when I have been victimized by mean superiors at work. When my consultant told me I shouldn't try to be a surgeon. When my ED registrar told me I was stupid and did the wrong thing (as an intern).

    I have found that it is definitely ok to cry in front of other staff - nurses and techs and even patients all know what you are dealing with, and love to know that doctors are people.


  9. I loved this post!! I have been so frustrated and upset sometimes I just have to go in my office and let it out so it doesn't affect my work. But there are those times where I think it's TOTALLY appropriate in front of parents, colleagues, etc. Although I'm sure the boy colleagues don't know what to do about it, at least my boy colleagues don't try to snuff it out and let it run its course...

  10. Ditto to all above comments. I cry at Hallmark commercials lol.
    But I am an L&D nurse. And as you all know there is sadness as well as joy. I can't help it. I'm a cryer. And I think people appreciate seeing humanity. They need to know that their baby (sometimes only called a fetus) matters and was a REAL person. Crying is good.

  11. Sometimes I think every emotion that I feel comes out as tears...sadness, anger, fear, joy, and even frustration. I'm a crier, and it got me into trouble in med school and residency with the "don't let 'em see that you are human" crowd, too. Luckily for me, my patients like to see the human side sometimes, as well. Wonderful post!

  12. Sometimes it's better if you let the patients/family see you cry. Because sometimes all you can really do for them is sit and cry with them.

  13. I'd cry over every one of those as well. I am finishing vet school and I already tear up easily, and I don't see that changing. And why shuld it? It's not bad to bloody feel now is it, if ot doesn't stop us from doing what must be done.

    [Charlie died?!]

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