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Enough About Physician Empathy

Is anyone else tired of hearing about how important empathy is in the doctor-patient relationship? Every other day it seems a new study is talking about the therapeutic value of empathy. Enough already!

It’s not that I don’t believe that empathy is important — I do. I also believe the data that links physician empathy with improved patient outcomes, increased satisfaction, and better patient experiences.

A recent study released in Academic Medicine reported that “patients of physicians with high empathy scores were significantly more likely to have good control over their blood sugar as well as cholesterol, while the inverse was true for patients of physicians with low scores.”

Findings from this study by Hojat, et al. are consistent with a 2009 study by Rakel, et al. which found that among patients with the common cold, those with physicians displaying high empathy had a significantly shorter duration of illness and trend toward lesser severity of illness and higher levels of immune response compared to those patients whose physician displayed less empathy. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Mind The Gap*

When Doctors Raise Their Voices And Throw Their Weight

When we physicians don’t get our way, or don’t get the response we desire, we can be intimidating. I have seen this play out many different ways. I have been treated rudely by other physicians. I was once threatened by a very prominent one, who told me (in response to the fact that I dared question his tone): “Be careful son, you’re digging yourself a deep hole.” I don’t know what kind of hole, or where it would have taken me, but he was certain I was digging it. Oddly enough, I rather like digging holes. (Very zen.)

Physicians yell at one another, or curse. Physicians stomp around and slam down charts. I don’t like it at all. I think it suggests immaturity. I always tell students and residents that in the ER, especially, the physician is “Captain of the Ship,” and the Captain must never lose his or her cool.

But physicians, sadly, do the same to non-physicians. Nurses, in particular, earn their ire as they scream, curse, stomp and engage in all sorts of negative behaviors. It also happens to paramedics, unit secretaries, dietary workers, therapists, administrators and all manner of persons. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Doctors Meet A Decade Later

I just had my ten-year medical school reunion. It’s hard for me to imagine it’s been ten years since my last medical school class. It’s been fourteen years since that first week of gross anatomy. That class was so hard, I almost dropped out of medical school after one week.

A bunch of us local docs from my medical school class of 2000 rode to academic mecca in a stretch limo. What did I learn from my experience at my ten-year medical school reunion? Other than forgetting a few names:

  • When I was in medical school, lots of medical students, on occasion, would  drink heavily. I learned ten years later some doctors, on occasion, still drink heavily and get drunk.
  • When I was in medical school, lots of medical students smoked cigarettes. I learned ten years later some doctors, on occasion, still smoke (but only when they’re drinking). Apparently.
  • When I was in medical school, some students were really funny. I learned ten years later some doctors, on occasion, are still really funny, even when they aren’t drunk.
  • When I was in medical school, some students were really smart. I learned ten years later some doctors, on occasion, are still really smart. Most of us others have been dumbed down with years of practice.

It was fun to learn about what my colleagues have been doing. Ten years later the cellphones are a bit fancier, everyone’s talking about their Facebook page, and I’m completely content sitting  on the couch with Mrs. Happy watching everyone else get drunk like it was yesterday.

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

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