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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Caring doctors encouraged to sit beside patient

In Chapter 9 of Care of the Soul in Medicine called "Service to Humanity," Thomas Moore writes about health-care workers in the section "The Meaning of Service:" "The service aspect might appear in their attitude toward their work and toward their patients. They felt that they were serving when they went even a short distance past what was required of them: spending more time at work on behalf of a patient, spending more time in the patient’s presence, being more available by talking freely or sitting rather than standing. That is an interesting notion — service through sitting with a patient, showing her that you are not ready to run off to the next chore or assignment."

An article by Rob Stein of The Washington Post picked up by The Toronto Star today, headlined "Prescription for doctors: Sit down" supports Moore's recommendation by stating, "A new study suggests one very easy way doctors could make their patients feel better: Sit down next to them."

According to the article:
"University of Kansas researchers studied 120 patients who were recovering from spine surgery. When their doctors stopped by their beds to see how they were doing, half of the physicians stood and the other half sat down in a chair next to their patients.

When the researchers questioned the patients afterward, they found a significant difference between their perception of the length of time their doctor spent with them and the actual time. The average time the standing doctors spent at the bedside was one minute and 28 seconds. But patients perceived that the interaction lasted much longer: an average of three minutes and 44 seconds. When the doctor sat, the visit actually lasted an average of one minute and four seconds. But the patients perceived that the visit had gone on for an average of five minutes and 14 seconds.

More-detailed interviews with 38 of the patients found that when their doctors sat down, 95 percent rated the interaction as positive. When the doctors stood, that figure was 61 percent."

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