Does Your Doc Feel Your Pain? Some Mad He Doesn't

I remember it well.  A week before Christmas, an ice storm.  And a fall out running that broke my wrist.

Now a new study says that patients with immediate medical needs tend to perceive doctors as emotionless.

Mine was really a funny story.  I hit a bus on my way to the ER (it pulled out in front of me).  I was in such pain I just kept going.

But sitting in the exam room, waiting for the doctor, two cops walked in to tell me I was being investigated for hitting a bus.  It turned out to be minor -- we had clicked mirrors, no damage -- but that added to the enjoyment of the day.

Anyway, since I was at an immediate care center that didn't offer surgery (if needed) or high-caliber pain-killers, I was told to drive myself to the local hospital, that did.  Back in the car I went, only to arrive there to wait 13 hours to have my wristbone yanked three times to try to put it back in place.

Oh my God.

So I'm not sure it mattered too much whether my doc was wincing along with me, I just wanted the pain to end.  But others are not so sure.

When a patient is in urgent need of a doctor for illness or injury, expecting that doctor to help is natural. 

But a new study finds that the greater patients' need for medical care, the more likely patients will view their doctors as "empty vessels," devoid of emotions or personal lives of their own; at the same time, those patients expect their physicians to be able to contain the patients' emotions and experiences.

The study is unusual in that most research focuses on the reverse—how physicians view patients.

Research found that, when patients are in immediate need of a physician, they don't view their doctor as a human being with emotions. At the same time, these patients think that their doctors should empathize with them and feel patients' emotions.

"When people really need to see a doctor, whether it is for something immediate such as a broken bone or a life-threatening illness, they look at the doctor in terms of their own health goals and not as a person with emotions," says one researcher.

I didn't really care if my doctor -- actually just a young resident -- felt my pain.  I just wanted him to end it. 


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