Being a doctor in practice for more than five years now, like most other experienced doctors, I am probably going through that phase of experiencing life on the other side of the doctor-patient relationship. My father used to say that he went through a lot of emotional breakdown seeing patients and their families go through illness and loss in his initial years as a doctor. He used to be sensitive to patients' and families' emotions. He later grew a little more philosophical and little more detached and may less emotionally perturbed on loss or sickness of his patients.
But since I left my training and into the real world, I was more mechanical and probably insensitive to the patient's emotions at first. Probably because I was myself going through a lot of changes in my personal life like starting to work, moving to a new place, getting married, having a child and so on. Other part of it is probably that I am an 'alien' in a new country. Unless you have lived there for a certain number of years and have developed social relationships with people around you, you do not get to know or own the country or culture you move to. It also depends on how long you spend at one particular place. I started to learn some culture of the country I moved to but not deep enough for me to understand how a person going through serious illness would handle and experience from a perspective of a native.
Then there came a time when I started experiencing it myself, first-hand as a patient or patient's family about how it feels like in the health care setting I work for. That experience is something that gave me a lot of insight. Insight on a lot of different things like what would be the worries that patient's have when they see the doctor, how important is accessibility to them for future questions, how would the family dynamics help healing a person, how important a nutritionist, a nurse, a therapist, a room cleaner is in interacting and making the patient life better. After all said and done, all health care is for the patient. As a doctor, I control a major portion of it but not all of it to make my patient's stay in the hospital or a visit to the office comfortable and tension or worry free. There is definitely a certain amount of psychological stress that no matter what anybody says the sick person and his family will go through. We can only direct them and try to alleviate the tension by letting them know about they do not know.
As somebody has put it 'The Unknown' is what that really makes anybody in the world stressed. Even death, if they know that they are going to die in a certain way, people could die in peace. Most people might agree tht death is the worst thing that might happen to a person. But I think even worse than death are the questions about the unknown about the circumstances, family, pain and sufferring are the ones that make the fear of death worse for anybody. I had patient's with terminal disease who on revealing their diagnosis and prognosis were completely content with their life and achievements and ready for the inevitable and on assurance about what to expect would do amazingly great. I also had patient's who actually break out in tears because of the diagnosis or prognosis, but most likely be explained by some lack of clarity of thought about family support or changes in plans and the whole after math. I am not denying that 'knowing bad news' is horrible. But bad news becomes extremely painful if it involves lack of knowledge on what is going to happen and the patient is left in the dark.