Once known as having a “good bedside manner,” showing empathy benefits patients and physicians.
Developed by medical faculty at Duke, the University of Pittsburgh and several other medical schools, “Oncotalk” is part of a burgeoning effort to teach doctors an essential but often overlooked skill: clinical empathy.
Unlike sympathy, which is defined as feeling sorry for another person, clinical empathy is the ability to stand in a patient’s shoes and to convey an understanding of the patient’s situation as well as the desire to help.
Clinical empathy was once dismissively known as “good bedside manner” and traditionally regarded as far less important than technical acumen. But a spate of studies in the past decade has found that it is no mere frill. Increasingly, empathy is considered essential to establishing trust, the foundation of a good doctor-patient relationship.
Studies have linked empathy to greater patient satisfaction, better outcomes, decreased physician burnout and a lower risk of malpractice suits and errors.
By Sandra G. Boodman