most people want an empathetic doctor, someone who can prescribe medications but also someone who listens and understands. Yet patients rightfully complain that there just seems to be less empathy from doctors in clinics and hospitals.
Researchers have found that medical students’ empathy scores drop through the course of medical education, and medical journals lament that physician empathy is on the decline. Most research looking to understand and solve the ‘empathy gap’ focuses on training individual physicians, but it could be a lost cause if the work environment remains unchanged.
The key resides in the nature of clinical empathy, which requires that the practitioner be truly present. That medical professional must be curious enough to cognitively and emotionally relate to a patient’s situation, perspective and feelings, and then communicate this understanding back to the patient.
– David Scales