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ORIGINAL RESEARCH PAPER
Year : 2008  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 144

Differences between Emergency Patients and Their Doctors in the Perception of Physician Empathy: Implications for Medical Education


1 School of Medicine, Fu-Jen Catholic University, Hsinchuang, Taipei, Taiwan
2 Department of Emergency Medicine, Catholic Mercy Hospital, Taiwan
3 Graduate Institute of Health Allied Education, National Taipei College of Nursing, Taipei, Taiwan

Correspondence Address:
C-S Lin
No. 365, Min Te Road, 11257 Taipei
Taiwan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


PMID: 19039746

Context and Objectives: Conveying empathy is a multi-phase process involving an inner resonation phase, communication phase, and reception phase. Previous investigations on physician empathy have focused on a physician's inner resonation phase or communication phase and not on the patient's reception phase. The purpose of this study was to investigate the differences in the perception of physicians' empathy between emergency physicians (EPs) and their patients. The answer to this question will allow us to more fully understand all phases of empathy and will help guide the teaching of how to effectively communicate empathy in the clinical setting. Methods: From 2004 to 2005, we conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 7 each of EPs, patients, patients' family members and nurses. A phenomenological approach was used to analyze the data. Results: Four themes emerged from the analysis: (1) When patients expressed their feelings, EPs usually did not resonate with their concerns; (2) Patients needed EPs to provide psychological comfort, but EPs focused only on patients' physical discomfort; (3) Patients needed appropriate feedback from EPs, but EPs did not reflect on whether their patients had received empathy from them; (4) EPs' ability to empathize was affected by environmental factors, which EPs found difficult to overcome. Conclusion: EPs and their patients perceive the physicians' empathy differently. These findings provide insights into patients' perceptions of their physicians' empathic expressions and provide a framework for teaching physicians how to convey empathy in the emergency department setting.


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