“When doctors become patients, they shouldn’t be surprised that the experience is frightening, undignified and disempowering.”

Stories of doctors experiencing illness are common. Major illness is life-changing for most people, and the impact on doctors can be particularly profound.1–5 But why do so many doctors seemingly have to experience a life-threatening illness before they truly develop empathy? Despite years spent caring for patients, why is it that it takes their own illness to realise that being unwell can be frightening and demoralising for the soul as well as wreaking havoc on the body?


reflection, doctors, experience of illness, empathy

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