Empathy In The Medical Field

Decent Essays
PPD aims to help medical students develop professional skills and attitudes that will be essential in our future as doctors. The first PPD tutorial focused on fostering empathy, this was achieved by allowing students to briefly experience what it was like to be patient. The idea of empathy repeatedly came up throughout all the succeeding tutorials, thus highlighting the importance of its role in the medical profession. The purpose of this essay is to explore the concept of empathy, as well as examine its significance in medical practice.

Although commonly confused with each other, sympathy and empathy are not the same. In the literal meaning, “sympathein” means “suffering with”, while “empathein” means “suffering inside”(1). To put it simply, sympathy is sharing an emotion that another is experiencing, while empathy is the
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Emotional attunement involves doctors trying to imagine the patient’s experience, and this way they may find themselves resonating. Patients may not always explicitly verbalize their emotions and leave clues instead; therefore it is up to physicians to develop the skills necessary to acknowledge these clues and make the patient feel understood. In a study by Suchman et al (4), it was observed that when doctors recognized and responded to emotions that were present but not directly expressed, patients disclosed more information that aided in their quality of care and improved the patient-physician relationship. Even if the physicians asked the appropriate questions, if they did not exhibit an empathetic response to show that they understood the patient, patients were unlikely to share vulnerable information. There is also growing evidence that suggests empathy from physicians can decrease a patient’s anxiety (5). Patients trust physicians who respond to their anxiety and, in some cases, decreasing anxiety has been linked to better
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