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Empathy and Positivity: The Role Doctors Play In Patient Recovery

  • timeline Anoush Gomes
  • 3 Min Read
  • Fact Checked

When it comes to healthcare, many will tell you that it runs on the backs – or rather brains – of doctors. From going through years of medical school and umpteen sacrifices, to now facing a pandemic, they, along with other frontline workers, are responsible for the many lives that were saved. Often though, we look at doctors as though all they are capable of are healing medical anomalies, but sometimes healing requires more than a scalpel. There are elements of humanity, empathy and care in a doctor-patient interaction, all of which are taught to doctors-in-training. While on the outside it may seem as though doctors lack emotion, their empathy plays a big role in patient recovery.

Why is Empathy important during recovery?

During recovery, especially with those that are chronically ill, patients feel quite lonely. They feel as though they have been reduced to their medical files, symptoms of illness and doctors’ appointments. Many don’t think that their doctor actually cares about their wellbeing. Besides being skilled in clinically diagnosing and treating their patient, doctors also depend on the bond they have created with their patient for a positive outcome after recovery.

In Psychology, it is often talked about how trust building involves a lot of understanding, empathy and optimism. A doctor’s extension of their emotional empathy allows for their patient to be calmer, and more optimistic which can medically cause positive effects as well.

Ways that Empathy can impact patient recovery

  • Improved eating habits
  • Willingness to effectively be treated
  • Heal depression and anxiety
  • Reduce stress
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Regulate moods 

Patient satisfaction is one of the ultimate goals of a doctor and there’s a lot more under that bucket than just curing their illness through medical means. Empathy makes for a very powerful emotion that may usually go unnoticed.

Ways that doctors practice Empathy

  • They carefully listen without interruption
  • They call you by name, and make eye contact
  • They bring in humanity, making the appointment more than just about their patient’s illness
  • They keep a realistic and positive attitude 
  • They cater to your needs such as offering you a tissue, or a beverage 
  • They offer explanation of hard-to-understand diagnosis, or procedures in calm and empathetic manner
  • They validate your feelings regardless of the diagnosis 

Empathy is of key importance  when it comes to the outcomes of patient treatment. More specifically, with doctor empathy comes patient trust and clear certainty which play a crucial role in healing.

As a race, we have a deep dependency on doctors, but we often forget that they do a lot more than learn from textbooks and perform surgeries. They are more than doctors, for some they are mentors, parents, shoulders to lean on, friends, colleagues, etc. For most doctors, they see their patients over the course of many years and have developed a connection with them. Some patients even treat doctors like family, and it’s through empathy and understanding of one another that a trusting relationship is formed during a doctor-patient interaction.

While it may be true that medical treatments have an overwhelming effect of positive patient outcomes, a doctor’s empathy plays a crucial role too. The challenges many doctors face on a day-to-day basis should not be taken for granted. Their personality, and temperaments that molds aspects of their empathy help a great deal in their determined path to helping those who need them.

If you have a story you’d like to share about how your doctor has made a difference in your life, or simply want to thank them – leave a comment below. 

Your doctor, is #MoreThanADoctor.

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  • Written by

    Anoush Gomes

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