Aug. 21, 2022

Non-judgmental empathy in the exam room

"I think we all have an inclination—at least from time to time—to judge others. No matter how experienced, compassionate, and professional we are as physicians, we’re still human. I can admit that I have indeed struggled with patients like the...


"I think we all have an inclination—at least from time to time—to judge others. No matter how experienced, compassionate, and professional we are as physicians, we’re still human. I can admit that I have indeed struggled with patients like the 65-year-old morbidly obese male who complains at every visit about how hard it is to control his blood sugar levels with the medications prescribed. I want to convince him so badly about diet and exercise, but I have tried, and often, these patients don’t want to hear it. Pharmacological or surgical interventions are the preferred route for many.

I know I cannot magically change a patient’s attitudes about their health. Nevertheless, I still believe that the best I can do for my patients is to offer them my sincere professional advice without prejudice or discrimination. If my physical presence is intimidating to some, I won’t begrudge them for seeking a doctor who makes them feel more comfortable. In the end, I still believe that leading by example is essential for a physician and that I can use my personal experience to inspire positive change. After all, I am here to help."

Francisco M. Torres is an interventional physiatrist specializing in diagnosing and treating patients with spine-related pain syndromes. He is certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the American Board of Pain Medicine and can be reached at Florida Spine Institute and Wellness.

He shares his story and discusses his KevinMD article, "The importance of non-judgmental empathy."

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