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But don’t you want to get better?

It is such a surreal experience walking into a patient’s hospital room for the first time.  After asking him or her about personal experiences and medical history, you need to follow up with requesting permission to disrobe him or her to perform a physical examination.  What an incredible feeling it is to see such a sense of trust exchanged between patient and medical student!  Despite the shorter coat length and the lack of experience, the medical student is entrusted by the patient with as much authority as the rest of the medical team.  It is so powerful and so meaningful to be a part of this extraordinary exchange.


I have seen already the different bedside approaches practiced by males versus females.  I have cringed at some of the impatience that inadvertently seeps from the male team members when patients refuse to agree to certain recommendations.


“No, I do not want to take that medicine,” or, “I am so very afraid of that procedure.”


“But don’t you want to get better?” is the reply.


Perhaps it is not a difference between the sexes but only a difference in approach.  Yet, I struggle to dismiss the forever-accepted adage that women are more sensitive and emotional than our male counterpart.  Does this affect the quality of patient care?  Does this create stark differences between patient outcomes?  It likely does not create an insurmountable difference but the question continues to arise within the forefront of my consciousness.


Can a certain level of patience and empathy contribute to healing?  Do male patients feel alienated by a greater degree of compassion demonstrated by female physicians?


The topic has warranted further investigation.  A recent New York Times article shed light on the situation.  It pointed out that female doctors are generally more reassuring and focused on psychosocial health.  It also emphasized that a patient’s gender plays a significant role in the physician-patient interaction.  Female patients tend to feel more satisfied when female physicians exercise concern and offer encouragement.  On the contrary, female patients dislike when male physicians offer signs of empathy.  I find this incredibly intriguing.  According to The Journal of Women’s Health, female patients are also more likely to divulge details about personal factors and experiences when examined by female medical professionals.


I feel that these discoveries regarding preferred patient-centered care only emphasize the importance of incorporating communication classes within the medical training curriculum.  It has become a necessity to focus upon teaching the skills necessary to create meaningful dialogue during patient interviews.  This will be of great benefit later when physicians interact with patients by offering their invitation to unveil the privacy of that patient’s health.


Chen, Pauline. Do Women Make Better Doctors? The New York Times, May 6, 2010.


Author: Cherilyn Cecchini

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Cherilyn Cecchini

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