Thursday, February 9, 2012

Have You Ever Hugged Your Doctor?

Hugging is a funny thing. In my experience, either you're a hugger or you're not. I'm not one. However, there are times when a hug is needed, even for an anti-hugger like me. There are times when it just feels good to have that physical connection with someone who wants to support you. The problem is, when and where is this appropriate? Hugging can be an issue between patients and doctors, because of the inequity of the relationship between the two.

The Loyola University Health System in Illinois addresses this issue in a piece called Is It Ever OK to Hug Your Doctor? because it affects both sides of the equation. A doctor may feel that a patient can use a hug just as much as a patient may wish to have one. Some people may argue with our high-tech world, a hug may be even more appropriate now, to maintain that human connection between the person who needs help and the one who is providing it. Interestingly, I have seen many nurses hug patients - I have hugged patients. Most often, they were patients who were struggling through a very tough time and they just needed that contact. Sometimes, the hug was for a relative who was absorbing some bad news or who had just lost a loved one. Other times, they were hugs of thanks as people were leaving the facility. Truth be told, I don't know if we ever discussed the appropriateness of hugging. Of course, some nurses never hugged because they just weren't comfortable with it, but even I, the non-hugger, have hugged a patient or relative in need.

The Loyola article lists ways that doctors who are unsure can make physical contact in another way, that can be just as supportive, such as touching an elbow or forearm. Other body language, such as leaning in towards the patient while talking, is also showing that the doctor is interested and making a connection. In my mind, there is nothing wrong with asking, if you're not sure. There was a doctor who had done a lot for me and really helped me heal. As we were reaching the end of our treatment, I asked for a hug. He knew I didn't usually, but when I asked for one, I got it. And it helped me a lot, I remember.

What do you think? Is hugging appropriate?


Jennifer Fink said...

I actually wrote about this a few years ago:

And I recently saw a YouTube video of Scott Hamilton talking about his health scares, and how a nurse who quietly, gently asked if he prays brought comfort to him in the middle of a touch night. Watch it at:

Marijke Vroomen-Durning said...

Thanks Jennifer. I'll go read it now.