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AMA: Practicing Empathy May Lead to More Joy in Medicine

Doctors should take advantage of first few minutes of clinical encounter, give full attention to patients

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MONDAY, Sept. 26, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Empathetic listening can help physicians navigate difficult situations and forge deeper connections with patients, leading to greater professional satisfaction and joy, according to the American Medical Association.

Noting that patients and their families are often more satisfied and more open to adopting advice when physicians show true empathy while listening, the article describes five ways for doctors to become better listeners and connect with empathy.

According to the report, the first few minutes of a clinical encounter are important and should be used to give full attention to the patients and identify true concerns or symptoms. Physicians should be aware of and listen out for underlying feelings, being aware of non-verbal cues. In addition, empathetic listening means being attuned to the underlying needs or values that the patient is addressing. Physicians should be comfortable with silence, and use non-verbal body language to show that they are listening; patients should be given the opportunity to completely express their feelings. Finally, physicians should look for cues to indicate that the patient has finished talking and is ready to move on to the next stage of the communication process.

"Increasing administrative responsibilities due to regulatory pressures and evolving payment and care delivery models reduce the amount of time physicians spend delivering direct patient care," according to the report. "Training yourself to recognize emotional and body-language cues can help you defuse situations where a patient is dissatisfied or struggling to express themselves in a clear way."

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