It is normal for health care professionals to experience an array of emotions when interacting with ill patients and their families. Although positive emotions such as joy and satisfaction are rarely problematic, negative emotions such as anger or sadness may interfere with their ability to communicate empathically or even to provide appropriate medical care.
Some negative emotions are direct reactions to what the patient is saying or doing (e.g. an angry patient). Some other may arise when the patient do not act in the anticipated way (he/she is not taking medication as prescribed).
Health care professionals may feel sad, helpless, or even guilty when they cannot prevent a patient from further illness or death. They may also experience emotions triggered by their own past experiences, such as a patient who reminds them of a family member (e.g. grief, longing).
Dealing with one’s emotions is a learned skill that takes time and practice. It is necessary to be patient and keep practicing, and to consider each experience as a learning opportunity.
See reference for information about strategies for managing difficult emotions.