Society

Should Medical Schools Offer Grief Training For Doctors?

A peer-reviewed study to be published Tuesday, and described by health psychologist Leeat Granek yesterday in The New York Times, shows that for doctors, expressing grief "in the medical context is considered shameful and unprofessional."

To be a physician and openly grieve for one's patients is considered a sign of weakness, the study suggests.

I'm really surprised by this finding, as I'd somehow thought most medical schools paid attention nowadays to the emotional side of doctor-patient relationships.

Of course physicians need some distance from the emotionally costly aspects of their jobs; I understand this. But the new research shows that suppressing grief may negatively affect doctors' professional judgment. Half the doctors surveyed reported that they sometimes choose more aggressive treatments than might be best for their patients (instead of opting for palliative care), or distanced themselves from patients who were dying.

In this case, the cliche is true: more research is needed, because only 20 doctors, all oncologists, were interviewed for this study.

It seems an idea with huge benefits and zero costs: grief training for doctors in medical school.


You can keep up with more of what Barbara is thinking on Twitter

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: