Falling in Love with Patients

As Jill leaves, she always says, “I love you!”

Sometimes I whisper. Other times I scream down the hall: “I love you too!”

I think it’s illegal. Or risky. I’m supposed to contain my love, to practice professional distance. But why dissociate from myself or from those I care for? Why pretend to be reserved, restrained, aloof when I’m naturally warm, affectionate, friendly?

One day during med school I decided to break the rules, to celebrate my life without shame. And on that day I fell in love with myself and I gave myself permission to fall in love with my patients, to hug and kiss them, to sing and laugh with them, to look deep into their eyes, cry, and allow our tears to flow together.

On Valentine’s Day at my first job, I admitted an elderly man dying of heart disease. His wife–unable to bear the pain of watching him die–left his side. I could have left too, but it didn’t seem right to let this guy die alone on this romantic day so I sat with him, held his hand, and cried. A cardiologist, startled by my emotion, exclaimed, “You must be a new doctor,” then disappeared down the hall. Maybe old doctors don’t cry, but I don’t want to close my heart to the world.

Why is it unprofessional to love patients? Maybe love isn’t valued in a male-dominated profession. After all, love is not easily measured or reimbursed. Love is hard to control.

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18 comments on “Falling in Love with Patients
  1. Kevin Everett says:

    Especially with our senior patients, there is no medicine better than love. Phama-therapies dull the senses but offer no emotional comfort. I exchange many “I love you”s, hold a lot of hands. The weaker the family presence, the stronger mine. It’s the part of the job I don’t get paid for. It’s the part for which I feel the best compensated.

  2. jill says:

    I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!

  3. Matthew Peters Sieradski says:

    Love is the essence of the manifest universe, and the foundation of all healing. Clearly is not love the very motivation behind the Sun and the Stars, the plants and the waters of Mother Earth? Our very own life is brought about by love, and more than just of the carnal variety! The very motivation of all union is the desire for the oneness that is our true being. Love is the province of all lovers, and all true healers are not more than simple lovers of humanity! Truly love is what is missing in the halls of dead-world materialism and its fear-greed-medicine offspring. No morality or caring lives in those stark grounds where walking deadmen roam. In the Light of Life, Loves shines bright! Bring on the Love, sister Pamela!


  4. Julie Penton says:

    Hi Pamela
    I like your blog site, especially the videos-I am still trying to fit myself into a medical scenario that works-you give me hope to keep listening to my heart, and not my fears…..now if I can just take that first step! Julie (PNP)

  5. Corey says:

    I basically knew about nearly all of this, but that being said, I still thought it had been beneficial. Excellent work!

  6. Kartenlegen gratis says:

    I uncovered your publish looking on google for just this data. I’m going to add you to favorites, I am understand ton from some of your other posts too. Thanks!

  7. Avery Laverne says:

    Bertrand Russell~ Man needs for his happiness not only the enjoyment of this or that but hope and enterprise and change.

  8. Lyllye Parker says:

    I practice holist advising with the students I serve. I find it very rewarding to the students and to me. A touch, smile, encouraging word, empowerment, positive expectations can make the difference between a student who gives up and one who takes control of their destiny. I find building relationships are much more positive than just doing a job. Thank you for your affirmation of my values.

  9. theresa smith says:

    is it against the law for a doctor to love a patient

  10. ConfusedNorthofChicago says:

    Dear Dr. Wible

    You sound so very compassionate. I love docs who have the capacity to give a small touch on the arm or say something other than, “who’s your insurance carrier?” Well, docs don’t actually do that … the office Kratchet does that horrible task.

    I have a question and holy cow, my radar could w-a-a-a-y be off. My new osteo doc, on the first visit said, “you do NOT look almost 59 … maybe 39” which, incidentally, is about his age. Then after the first treatment (I have end-stage osteoarthritis both knees after a former career of an alpine stunt skier for the motion picture industry) … he said, “you smell amazing!”

    A little butterfly there. Wow! Did that brighten my spirits EVER. And, he gives the biggest, bestest hugs I’ve ever had in my life. Not even exaggerating.

    Today’s treatment, he said in front of his assistants while he was injecting my knees, “I looked up your house on Google Earth, you live on 33 acres?” I told him as a displanted Alaskan, I don’t like neighbors. I like elbow room and trees.

    I fainted last week during my second treatment, that man had my head down below my heart within 2 seconds … lightning fast. I asked “how did you know I was fainting?” He said, “your eyes went blank and you started tipping off the procedure chair.” Then he asked tons of questions: “Are you eating, are you under stress? I know you’re taking furoesemide … go get a blood test.” Then, he nagged me for three days, “are you eating, are you sleeping, do I have to drive 50 miles from Chicago to rescue you?”

    No to food and yes to stress, yes to near fatal low levels of potassium (2.3) and iron (a little over 6.2). Lost 20 lbs. in two weeks.

    He wouldn’t let me leave today saying he wanted to see me eat. He also admitted he actually read my intake forms. He saw my profession and “would I please critique his logo, website, and other marketing materials?” Then, he swung his chair around, pulled mine closer and looked into my eyes for about three seconds. Forget butterflies, let’s talk elephants. The man is probably 20 years younger than me. I’m very flattered.

    I MUST be reading too much into this … Am I getting butterflies for no reason? I think I’ve forgotten the nuances of flirting … I haven’t done it 30 years.

    In the bigger picture … the injections are working. I am not screaming in my sleep and am walking without a limp for the first time in over 20 years.

    Did I say you’re amazing! I would so appreciate your insight.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      Dear ConfusedNorthofChicago ~ I find honesty is the best policy. Professional boundaries in a patient relationship are critical. If he or you have something else in mind you both must be direct in communication and upfront about it because he could get in some trouble for crossing these lines with a patient. I just spoke at a “Doctors without Boundaries” class for doctors who ended up dating their patients and they have all had trouble with the licensing board. Please be careful for your sake and his.

  11. Anna says:

    What if it’s the doctor who is the one hitting on you? And it clearly is, since day 1. I was so confused. I started feeling awkward and uncomfortable.
    He liked me until the day I was withdrawn.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      It is not professional to establish a romantic relationship with your doctor. If uncomfortable, please find another doc and/or discuss in the open. Honesty is the best policy.

  12. Marty Smith says:

    Love is a neglected concept that becomes concrete.

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