"why are we doing this?": Clinician helplessness in the face of suffering

Anthony L. Back, Cynda H. Rushton, Alfred W Kaszniak, Joan S. Halifax

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: When the brutality of illness outstrips the powers of medical technology, part of the fallout lands squarely on front-line clinicians. In our experience, this kind of helplessness has cognitive, emotional, and somatic components. Objectives: Could we approach our own experiences of helplessness differently? Here we draw on social psychology and neuroscience to define a new approach.

Methods: First, we show how clinicians can reframe helplessness as a self-barometer indicating their level of engagement with a patient. Second, we discuss how to shift deliberately from hyper-or hypo-engagement toward a constructive zone of clinical work, using an approach summarized as "RENEW": recognizing, embracing, nourishing, embodying, and weaving-to enable clinicians from all professional disciplines to sustain their service to patients and families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-30
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

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Social Psychology
Neurosciences
Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Nursing(all)

Cite this

"why are we doing this?" : Clinician helplessness in the face of suffering. / Back, Anthony L.; Rushton, Cynda H.; Kaszniak, Alfred W; Halifax, Joan S.

In: Journal of Palliative Medicine, Vol. 18, No. 1, 01.01.2015, p. 26-30.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Back, Anthony L. ; Rushton, Cynda H. ; Kaszniak, Alfred W ; Halifax, Joan S. / "why are we doing this?" : Clinician helplessness in the face of suffering. In: Journal of Palliative Medicine. 2015 ; Vol. 18, No. 1. pp. 26-30.
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