Is it okay to feel bad?

This evening we watched the HBO Documentary Film: Bleed Out. It was gut wrenching. To watch a mother’s/grandmother’s/daughter’s/son’s/family’s/friend’s story unfold over a period of ten years from a series of events causing irreparable medical harm was devastating. I was so impressed by the ability of Steve Burrows to demonstrate the longitudinal hardships caused by our hospital and legal systems in a way that is novel and speaks to everyone. My emotions ranged from anger, embarrassment, confusion, disgust, fear and sorrow. But there was also something else sneaking into the back of my mind. We’ve spoken this week about empathy and sympathy (huge thanks to Brene who I wish I was on a first-name basis with). I think it may have been possible that I was feeling a little of both for the healthcare providers in that film. And this made me really uneasy – why should I feel anything for or connecting me to them, when it was the patient and family that suffered beyond belief? They appeared negligent, unapologetic, corrupt and disrespectful. Many of the other cases we have been exposed to this week highlight systems errors; they are cases where we apply the substitution test with ease, the ones where we want to race back to our home institutions and assess the status of our ‘Go Teams’. In this documentary, the hospital, the doctors, the nurses – they all turned on each other. They didn’t apologize. From beginning to end, they never did the right thing. I struggled to relate to them. But they weren’t supporting each other or being supported institutionally; would that have changed the outcome, improved communication, or prevented medical harm? I’m currently reading an article where the statement the hospital released to all employees emphasized their commitment to patient safety and healthcare quality, and I think I’ll still wonder tonight if it’s okay to feel bad