Friday, February 29, 2008

Unintended Consequences of sending doctors to medical school

reports Elizabeth Redden:
The longitudinal study finds significant decreases in “vicarious,” or emotionally driven, empathy, during the course of medical education. Significant drops happen after the first year and after the third, clinical year when “students,” the article notes, “were seeing patients they had, presumably, looked forward to helping.” (The drop at that point of first patient contact in the third year is particularly concerning, the lead author, Bruce W. Newton, said in an interview Thursday).

“The significant decrease in vicarious empathy is of concern, because empathy is crucial for a successful physician-patient relationship,” says the study, authored by Newton, Laurie Barber, James Clardy, Elton Cleveland, and Patricia O’Sullivan. All are from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, except O’Sullivan, of the University of California at San Francisco.

“Empathy is one of the most highly desirable professional traits that medical education should promote, because empathic communication skills promote patient satisfaction and adherence to treatment plans while decreasing the likelihood of malpractice suits. Patients view physicians who possess the quality of emotional empathy as being better caregivers.”
(Via Tyler Cowen)

Previous UC installment here.

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