The No. 1 reason doctors cite for becoming doctors is the “desire to help people.” By that measure, they should be some of the sweetest people on the planet and yet, jerk-ism runs rampant in the medical profession.
“There is an epidemic of condescending, difficult, foul-tempered doctors, and you the patient are the one who suffers!” according to “ Ask an MD .”
Ever wonder why that is?
One reader on BoingBoing.net suggested that some doctors have become more brusque with patients as an “adaptation to ‘needy’ patients who, if allowed, might take up hours of a doctor’s time with demands for reassurance and a sounding board for complaints couched in the language of medicine.”
Another suggested that medical school itself may be to blame for doctors losing their empathy.
“Ask an MD” says some doctors may have been jerks all their lives.
“Maybe they weren’t hugged enough as babies,” Dr. D wrote on Ask an MD.
Well, Andrew Molinsky, a professor of organizational behavior at Brandeis University, teamed up with researchers at Wharton and Harvard business schools and came up with the real answer.
It may be the economy.
Anyone who’s in the “bad news business” (delivering bad news to people) — i.e. doctors, police officers, managers charged with laying off employees and school counselors — have “chronic compassion deficits,” the researchers found, because they are all too intimately familiar with the business and economics of the organization.
“[I]n general, people feel and behave less generously when reminded of the pressures of the business world,” Rebecca Coffee wrote on Psychology Today .
So, anyone faced with economic decisions — like, say, doctors who are expected to spend roughly 10 to 13 minutes per patient (including paper work) — tend to behave more competitively. When they are forced to think about profit and loss, it triggers a business-type mentality.
Consistently, the subjects had a “dampened empathy and less compassionate interactions than did control group subjects,” Coffee wrote.
She cites one experiment conducted in Israel, where they changed the name of one game to the “Wall Street Game” instead of the “Community Game.” The result? Players behaved more greedily!
If you just make that mental shift the next time you head to the doctor’s office, you’ll expect a lot less – and you’ll probably spend less time in there, too.
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