Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Ethics Man

How to be a cool headed clinician

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e3980 (Published 08 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3980

Re: How to be a cool headed clinician

Doctors could be in a dilemma when it comes to matters of empathy and their role in attuning emotionally with patients. Much as they may try to detach themselves from their patients feelings, the patients seemingly expect doctors to genuinely empathize with the.
Take the example of oncologists and the dreaded disease ‘cancer’. Many people perceive cancer as a death sentence and this therefore means that such patients have a need for empathy from their doctors. What needs to be emphasized clearly is that empathy is quite different from sympathy. By definition empathy is the ability to understand and share failings of another. Sympathy on the other hand, is a feeling of care and understanding for the suffering of others .The two words may have similar usage but differ in their emotional meaning .
According to Canadian Medical Association, showing clinical empathy to patients can improve their satisfaction of care, motivate them to stick to their treatment plans and lower malpractice complaints. Though in clinical practice clinicians do not express empathic responses frequently, the new studies show that empathy is an important medical tool and it can be taught at medical school.

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 May 2014
Carolyn Odiyo
lecturer
Laikipia University
BOX 1O445, Nakuru