Saturday, January 21, 2006

Why don't doctors listen - the patient's lament !

" There are in fact many reasons why physicians do not listen well. Most relate to deeply imbedded myths within the profession that interrupt listening. One example is the myth that medicine is an art and a science. With this split firmly in place, what is considered ‘science’ becomes funded and taught and what is labeled ‘art’ is often given scant attention. A good example of this is auscultation. Considered science, students are trained to use their stethoscopes for listening to internal organs. They learn for example to identify abnormal from normal heart sounds as well as what to do when they hear an abnormality. When listening to the person (versus the organ) most physicians function as amateurs not knowing what to listen for nor how to respond appropriately. As a consequence, vital communication clues tend to be missed as are opportunities for healing."
This is a very insightful comment by Dr Barry Bub, in the Healthcare Communication Review. It's sad that medical students spend more time learning how to listen to heart murmurs through their stethoscopes, than how to truly listen to patients with their ears ( and their eyes for non-verbal clues). Good doctors have excellent people ( soft) skills - but these are not taught in medical school. They are either born with them, or learn them by "osmosis" by watching good doctors, who serve as role models.

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