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Breaking barriers in clinical communication: are securely attached doctors more empathetic doctors?

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2009
Issue number1
Number of pages5
Pages (from-to)2-6
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Patients often present hints to emotional issues in clinical interactions. However, these are often missed by healthcare providers. It is unknown why some healthcare providers attend to more patient cues/concerns than others. Bowlby’s Attachment theory (1973) relates experiences in infancy to adult relationship models and some evidence suggests that attachment relationship models can predict health provider willingness to engage with emotional aspects of patients’ consultations. However it is not known if this association can be demonstrated during medical training, i.e. at a time when educational intervention is feasible. The aim of this study was to examine whether securely attached student doctors respond to patient cues/concerns in a more empathic manner compared to insecurely attached student doctors. Videotaped interactions between student doctors and simulated patients were coded for responses to patient-initiated cues and concerns. These were compared between securely and insecurely attached students. Contrary to our hypothesis there were no significant differences between securely and insecurely attached student doctors. Theoretical and methodological issues are discussed in order to address how to develop this important area of healthcare research.