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Personal Disclosure by Physician may Harm Patients

ice Association, has stopped telling his elderly patients about his mother, who was very active and healthy through her 80s.

I would tell people their expectations could be higher and use my mother as an example, Beckman said. In subsequent visits, they asked about my mother. That was great until her health began to decline then I had to tell them she was not well. That frightened them. If I couldnt help my own mother, how could I help them" My disclosure did not work as well as I had hoped.

Patients want their needs met. Doctors want to meet the needs of their patients and they want to have human contact, said McDaniel, who is director of the Wynne Center for Family Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center. But self-disclosure ultimately is misguided. Patient visits should be focused on the patient. They are not about me.

While a physicians self-disclosures usually develop from positive intentions, the investigators said that empathy, understanding and compassion toward the patient are more reliable and helpful for the patient.

If I tell my patients about my problems or how I feel, they are taking care of me, Beckman said. Is taking care of me the only way to deepen the relationship" There are other ways. We can have empathy. We can encourage our patients. We can praise them -- things that make a person feel valued.

McDaniel hopes physicians use the article to examine the way they conduct their practice and consider whether self-disclosures are in the best interest of their patients. She wants medical schools to include more discussions of methods of communication with patients in their curriculum.

Doctors need support groups, self-awareness groups and mindfulness groups to meet their needs, McDaniel said. They should not use self-disclosure. If they want to complain about their rent or the stress of the work, they should complain to their colleagues, not their patients.
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