Denise commented on yesterday's post "I would feel badly if my oncologist referred me to hospice, he said goodbye, and I had no further contact with him..." Is it unrealistic to expect oncologists to stay involved with patients who are now in hospice?
Oncologists guide patients through difficult decisions and challenging treatments over many months or years. Saying good-bye forever can be wrenching for the patient. And for the physician. Does it have to be this way?
Since the hospice team is trained to handle everything that might come up in the care of patients at the end of life, the long-time oncologist's expertise is rarely needed. But I suspect Denise is also talking about the oncologist still caring about the patient. To be cut off from all contact can feel like being abandoned to hospice.
Oncologists who work unduly long hours caring for patients in active treatment may find it difficult to find time to keep contact with all their patients in hospice. So here is a suggestion to Healthy Survivors who want to stay connected: Leave a message or drop a note to your oncologists to let them know how things are going.
And don't take it personally if you don't hear back. Compassionate oncologists may struggle with how to relate to patients when they are no longer trying to manage or cure the disease. In my next post I'll explore why caring oncologists might not even say "good-bye" when they know it is the final visit.