How Doctors Communicate Empathy Critical to Family-Physician Partnership

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Tessie W. October. MD, MPH Critical Care Specialist Children’s National Health System

Dr. October

Dr. Tessie W. October. MD, MPH
Critical Care Specialist
Children’s National Health System 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: This is a qualitative study that examines the impact of empathetic statements made by doctors on the ensuing conversation with families of critically ill children. We know families are more satisfied when doctors show empathy, but until this study, we did not know how these empathetic statements are received by families. In this study we found that doctors frequently respond to a family’s emotions by responding with empathy, but how the doctor presented that empathetic statement mattered. When doctors made an empathetic statement, then paused to allow time for a family’s response, the family was 18 times more likely to share additional information about their fears, hopes or values. Conversely, when doctors buried the empathetic statement within medical talk or if a second doctor interrupted, the empathetic statement frequently went unheard by the family.

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