Doctor- Doctor Relationship

Dr. Usha Nandini M,

Psychiatry PG,

Tirunelveli Medical College, Tamilnadu

No, this is not an article about professional relationships among doctors. Though Liaison among specialists is an important aspect of the medical profession, that is not what this article is about. It is about how the relationship between doctors helps them sail through the bed of thorns, i.e., the Medical Profession.

Yes, you read it right. The Medical Profession is indeed a bed of thorns. There might be some roses blooming here and there but that is not the point. How does one walk through a bed of thorns? Have you noticed how some people walk on footwear made of nails as a part of some temple ritual? If you touch it individually, it pricks, pains and bleeds immediately. But in a bed of thorns, where not a single area of the skin, but the whole feet together confronts it, distributes the pressure evenly and maintains the balance, it does not hurt as much. That is how we deal with the perils of the Medical Profession, by confronting issues together, distributing pressure by sharing and maintaining a good mental and physical balance. Who better to understand these than a fellow doctor?

Does the Doctor-Doctor relationship make sense now?

When a random patient’s attender assaults a doctor, when your patient’s death affects you emotionally, when some of your personal issues makes it difficult for you to deal with your hectic shift, when there is a family emergency in the middle of your duty, when there are some personal or professional things that is keeping on bothering you; where do you turn to? A fellow Doctor. These are some of the psychosocial support offered by the Doctor- Doctor relationship.

A support system is essential for any work environment, colleagues support each other during crisis. Even personal lives need a support system where one has a safe space to ventilate and process emotions i.e., friends and family. The same principle is applied in a Doctor-Doctor relationship. The only difference is that we are wired in such a way that we look at each other as each other’s competition. Hence maintaining a cordial relationship becomes tricky. Nevertheless, it is essential.

Right from Day one of Medical School when our friend helps us to get through Anatomy dissection, help us with a drop of blood in physiology and broods over the endless number of cycles in biochemistry along with us; to the present day where we have each other’s backs in the CoVID ward, unconsciously we have maintained a good Doctor-Doctor relationship. In other words, those of us who managed to survive medical school and residency have had a good support system.

One of the leading positions is held by doctors. No, not something to be proud of. I’m talking about the leading position in suicide rates. We are the ones dealing with suicidal patients in both physical and mental aspects, yet we have failed to deal with our own fellow beings.

Having a cordial relationship with our colleagues beyond the professional one  , serves as a safe space to ventilate, discuss strategies to solve problems and even somewhere where acceptance of distressing facts can be made possible. All of these things i.e., Ventilation, problem solving and acceptance are some of the key coping skills we teach suicidal patients. This is addressed partly by the Doctor-Doctor relationship. It provides a support system.

There is no point in brooding over how your colleague could have reached out to you during times of distress instead of attempting suicide. If they had the strength to ask for help, they probably might not have died. It is our duty to nurture the relationships between our fellow doctors in such a way that we are able to identify when they need help and vice versa.

Cut throat competition between doctors should not end up in some of them cutting their own throats. Keep that ego aside and embrace the doctor-doctor relationship.

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