Calibrating the Physician: Personal Awareness and Effective Patient Care

Calibrating the Physician: Personal Awareness and Effective Patient Care

Authors: Dennis H. Novack, MD; Anthony L. Suchman, MD; William Clark, MD; Ronald M. Epstein, MD; Eva Najberg, MSc; and Craig Kaplan, MD

The Journal of the American Medical Association


Physicians' personal characteristics, their past experiences, values, attitudes, and biases can have important effects on communication with patients; being aware of these characteristics can enhance communication. Because medical training and continuing education programs rarely undertake an organized approach to promoting personal awareness, we propose a "curriculum" of 4 core topics for reflection and discussion. The topics are physicians' beliefs and attitudes, physicians' feelings and emotional responses in patient care, challenging clinical situations, and physician self-care. We present examples of organized activities that can promote physician personal awareness such as support groups, Balint groups, and discussions of meaningful experiences in medicine. Experience with these activities suggests that through enhancing personal awareness physicians can improve their clinical care and increase satisfaction with work, relationships, and themselves.

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