The Importance of Empathetic Doctors


By Andy Lodge

Special for Newstalk Florida

Going to the doctor’s office or hospital is often a daunting experience, and for quite a few good reasons. Tim Bryce gave a good picture of what often happens when patients meet their doctors — the long wait, the cold staff, and the endless forms. When the patient finally gets to sit down with the physician and is then met with a bad temper and abrasive impatience, it just adds insult to injury.

Unfortunately, this coldness that stems from a lack of empathy is a reality in the medical profession. In fact, a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that on average, physicians tend to interrupt their patients after just eleven seconds. Doctors and patients alike can benefit from a bit more empathy on the part of the physician. Read on to find out how this change can significantly affect patient experience and recovery.

The Benefits of Empathy In Medicine

Empathetic doctors have the power to soothe patient anxiety and improve their overall mental state while in the hospital, as has been previously reported in the Journal of Hospital Medicine. Unsurprisingly, Maryville University reinforce the value of this effect, citing how there are strong connections between mental health and learning success. Indeed, less stressed and happier patients heal faster under the care of their empathetic doctors. Case in point, a study published on Science Direct found that patients who had highly caring surgeons were twenty times more likely to have positive outcomes after surgery.

How To Be A More Empathetic Doctor

While researchers from Thomas Jefferson University reveal that empathy levels tend to erode in medical school, it is not impossible to train oneself to be a more empathetic doctor. For one thing, physicians can benefit from not trying to race against the clock all the time, and adding just a minute or two to every visit to a patient. During this extra time, it’s useful to get to know the patients better by asking personal details. Of course, it’s important to remember these details — even though it’s just their nickname, if it’s their birthday next week, or if they just got married.

The typical tips for building human connections also work, such as regularly making eye contact and mimicking gestures. More than these external actions, an empathetic doctor knows how to put himself or herself in the patient’s shoes. He or she understands that for this individual, the whole process can be scary, painful, or downright unbearable. Any physician can combat these negative feelings by showing the patient that he or she is being listened to and cared for as a human being in a difficult situation, and not just data points on a sheet.

It is not easy to undo the deeply ingrained medical culture, but proper training, awareness, and time will make a world of difference. The ideal hospital is one where patients are not constantly reminded that they are in one because of the way they are treated. Instead, it can be an inviting place with empathetic doctors who genuinely care about their patients.

                                                                        Post solely for the use of By Andy Lodge