Empathy doesn’t take more time to convey than indifference.
But first, a doctor has to feel it. During the last two decades, researchers have sought to understand the causes and remedies for the widely acknowledged dearth of empathy — what has informally been filed under the heading “bedside manners” — in the medical profession.
Until fairly recently, medical students were trained to respond with “detached concern,” an approach that would guard them from becoming emotionally affected by a patient’s struggle.
The rationale for detached concern was that resonating too deeply with a patient would cloud the doctor’s ability to diagnose and treat him with clinical objectivity. Recent research has debunked the benefits of detached concern, demonstrating that emotional empathy not only improves doctor-patient relationships and patient outcomes, but also is correlated with higher job satisfaction among medical practitioners.