Physicians may not think they have time for empathy. In the fast-paced world of healthcare, doctors typically have just minutes with the average patient to assess their condition, diagnose an illness, order tests or write prescriptions.
At the center of this encounter is a patient filled with emotion — fear of illness or death, anxiety about lost time at work, discomfort from pain and other symptoms, problems at home or work and even embarrassment, especially if the patient’s illness is tied to self-defeating lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking or obesity.
By acknowledging a patient’s emotions in a non-judgmental way, (“drinking helped you cope with a stressful life”) trust begins to build and better communication follows. The relationship between physician and patient becomes more productive, leading to better patient care and outcome.
By Newell Young, LICSW