Journal of the Student National Medical Association (JSNMA) - Winter 2014Add to Favorites

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There is much to celebrate and reflect on for this season: being thankful, being generous, celebrating family traditions, and embracing the new year. This season is also an opportunity to reflect on what it means to have humanism in medicine. William Osler stated: “Let us know what kinds of people have a certain disease, instead of discovering what kind of disease a person has.” A good doctor-patient relationship is the foundation of good medical care and allows physicians to address the more nuanced, human, non-technical factors in patient care. Inherent in this relation-ship is empathy: the ability to see life through another’s perspective. Research suggests that empathy levels are high in the basic science years of training, and drops in the third year and again in residency, at two transition points when trainees gain increased exposure to patients. The stresses of limited time, high volume of patients, and limited control of one’s schedule may result in burnout, decreased empathy, and disillusionment with medicine. The great news is that empathy certainly can be taught, as it is necessary to build a strong therapeutic alliance.

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