A man walks into an emergency room with an intense pain in his abdomen. He is hoping to find a doctor who knows how to treat him. The doctor enters his room and begins robotically palpating his abdomen, showing no hint of recognition for the pain he is in. The man begins to ask himself, “Does this doctor care that I am in extreme pain?” He then wonders, “If he doesn’t care that I am in pain, how motivated can he be to ease my pain?” This might seem like a silly question. If the physician didn’t care about healing people, why would he become a doctor? Modern technology has caused doctors to become complacent and emotionally detached from their patients. Doctors must be empathetic towards their patients in order to deliver quality healthcare despite the lack of time they have for their patients.
The patient’s perception of the doctor in this situation is that he lacks empathy. Empathy can be described as the ability for one person to understand another’s feelings and thoughts. The role of empathy in healthcare is very important; more specifically, it is crucial for doctors to be able to effectively express empathy without compromising their primary objective, which is to diagnose and treat patients.
While the science of medicine is primarily based on the function of the human body, it cannot be ignored that emotional health plays a vital role in a patient’s quality of life. Improving physical health will inevitably improve emotional health. The appropriate way to approach healing is with an understanding of this concept. In the article “Empathy in Medicine—A Neurobiological Perspective,” Dr. Helen Rice states:
Empathetic physicians can obtain critical information and ins...
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Rice, H. (2010). Empathy in medicine--a neurobiological perspective. JAMA, 304(14), 1605. Retrieved from http://drscottwright.wikispaces.com/file/view/Empathy and Medicine - A Neurobiological Perspective.pdf
Switankowsky, I. (2005). From detached concern to empathy: Humanizing medical practice. Humane Medicine Health Care, 5(2), Retrieved from http://www.humanehealthcare.com/Article.asp?art_id=834
Hardee, J. (2010, February 16). The role of empathy in healthcare. Retrieved from http://realbalance.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=143&Itemid=999
Torrey, T. (2011, September 13). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://patients.about.com/od/therightdoctorforyou/a/docpatientcomm.htm
Wolfe, S., Carome, M., Barbehenn, E., & Sasich, L. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.worstpills.org/public/page.cfm?op_id=3
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