Doctors and empathy

A study that’s making the rounds is one that looked at 20 doctor-patient interactions from the VA, and found that doctors were empathic only 10 percent of the time.

Not sure how reproducible such a small study is, but it should be noted that it was performed at the VA. The patients and environment that the VA provides differ from private practice.

That being said, I’m not surprised at the results. Doctors are often pressed for time, and the financial pressure to see more and do more often waylays empathy.

I’m also wary that empathy can actually be taught. I know that medical schools hire patient-actors to “teach” empathy, but that’s an emotion that has to be genuine, not manufactured.

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