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Difficult physician–patient encounters

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Consultant physicians encounter patients, and families and carers of patients, who leave us feeling helpless, frustrated, irritated and even angry. There are limited opportunities for trainees and physicians to discuss how to recognize, manage, learn from and prevent these difficult physician–patient encounters. This paper addresses factors, including physician factors, that may contribute to making encounters difficult, categorizes the types of difficult encounters and provides generic and specific suggestions (based in part on published literature and in part on our personal experience) about prevention and management of many of them.

Keywords: communication; difficult patients; empathy; physician–patient relations

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Royal Melbourne Hospital and Principal Fellow, School of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: October 1, 2010

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