Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Acting techniques may help doctors empathize with their patients


Business scholars for more than 20 years have explored the concept of ’emotional labor,’ or the management of emotions to present a certain image in service workers. Now, researchers from the University of Washington Business School and Group Health Cooperative have teamed up to explore how the concept can be applied to the medical profession.

"We propose that the emotional labor of physicians is characterized by the display of empathy," said Dr. Eric B. Larson, director of Group Health’s Center for Health Studies and co- author of a commentary in the March 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Empathy is essential to healing relationships, so it’s something all health professionals should be expected to show – even when it’s hard to do so."

Drawing from previous research that equates service workers’ labor to the work of stage actors, Larson and co-author Xin Yao, a doctoral student in the UW Business School, describe a model for applying acting techniques to the delivery of empathy in doctor-patient interactions. They suggest that doctors use two techniques separately or in combination – ’deep acting,’ which uses imagination and emotional memories to generate genuine feelings of empathy for the patient, and ’surface acting,’ in which the doctor forges emotional expressions inconsistent with internal feelings. This would allow the doctor to display behaviors the patient can interpret as empathic.

The authors contend that deep acting is preferred because it makes doctors more effective healers. They also believe doctors have greater professional satisfaction and less professional burnout when they practice deep acting, but may have to rely on surface acting when genuine empathy seems impossible. Surface acting may be needed, for example, in situations in which the doctor’s values or beliefs are entirely different from the patient’s. "We suggested viewing physician empathy as emotional labor and how doctors can achieve empathy through acting," said Yao, who did the work for her doctoral dissertation. "Thus, by learning about and consciously engaging oneself in deep acting and surface acting, physicians can be more prepared to meet patients’ needs."

The authors say doctors need to recognize that their work has an element of emotional labor and to consciously practice deep and surface acting to empathize with their patients. They also recommend long-term, regular training to help doctors develop empathy. "This will be valuable for both physicians and patients facing the increasingly fragmented and technological world of modern medicine," they write. "For patients, our message is that it’s reasonable to expect physicians to show empathy," said Larson. "It’s part of the physician’s job."

Larson also urged healthcare consumers to seek long-term, continuous relationships with physicians they like. "The better the physician knows you, the easier it is to develop an empathic, healing relationship."

Nancy Gardner | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Inflammation Triggers Unsustainable Immune Response to Chronic Viral Infection
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Enormous dome in central Andes driven by huge magma body beneath it

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Deep down fracking wells, microbial communities thrive

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>