Crying when a patient suffers a devastating loss

I was a second-year resident, doing a 24-hour shift on maternity care. I’d spent some arduous nights on call with my attending physician, Dr. Campbell. Now, we sat at the nursing station, joking about what this one might bring.

“You must be a black cloud,” she teased, accusing me of being one of those unfortunate residents who seem to attract medical emergencies. I laughingly protested, but in fact, these quiet nights worried me. I felt on edge, waiting for something, anything to happen.

Finally, the emergency department called to say that a possibly laboring mom was on her way up. We got her name, which was Cecilia, and I feverishly dug out her chart.

When Cecilia was wheeled into the labor room, she was smiling, and the man beside her — her husband, Harvey — also seemed at ease. I studied her face and demeanor, wondering whether she would deliver tonight or be signed out to the incoming resident tomorrow morning.

As nurse Angela got her settled in, I reviewed her history.

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