This banal object makes doctors more empathetic

This banal object makes doctors more empathetic

Doctors are sometimes accused – rightly or wrongly – of lacking empathy. However, there is a simple way to correct this perception, according to a scientific study. All they would have to do is sit near their patient’s bed.

How does the simple act of sitting in a chair improve the patient’s relationship with their doctor, making them more empathetic and more competent? In any case, these are the results of a study published in the British Medical Journal, which recommends that doctors sit down when they are in their patient’s room.

Measure doctor presence duration and patient satisfaction

In this study, carried out in a hospital in the United States, more precisely in the state of Texas, the researchers wanted to evaluate the link between the location of the chair in the patients’ room and their satisfaction. During 125 different interviews, the scientists therefore compared two situations: those where the chair was positioned along the wall or in a corner of the room and the case where it was less than a meter from the patient’s bed. To avoid creating any bias, neither patients nor doctors were kept informed of this subtlety.

Doctors who sit down in 60% of cases

When the chair is installed near the bed, the researchers notice that six times out of ten, doctors sit down, which was the case only one time in five on average, according to the results of previous studies. The position of the chair in the room matters, because 7% of them sat when the object was less accessible.

No other changes but a better perception of the doctor

Other parameters, such as the time spent with the patient (ten minutes on average), the act of knocking on the door before entering, introducing oneself or explaining the course of care, have not changed. On the other hand, seeing the doctor sit down modifies the image of the doctor for the patient. The latter tended to perceive them as being more empathetic, with a better ability to communicate and better diagnostic skills. An easy habit to adopt and which can greatly change the image of the doctor for his patient.