The Feeling Physician: Educating the Emotions in Medical Training

Johanna Shapiro, Ph.D.

In this paper, I first address what medical students learn about appropriate (or tolerated) professional attitudes and emotions in the clinical context and how the performance of emotional positions that create distance between doctor and patient and the defining of patients as other is encouraged through the informal and hidden curricula. Next, I examine what we know about medical students’ emotions. I then identify particular problematic emotional attitudes that can emerge in medical students toward patients, especially vulnerable patients who are marginalized or stigmatized in the healthcare system. To better understand this phenomenon, I discuss how such emotions emerge in response to both intrapsychic and systemic pressures. The paper then examines alternative models of healthcare that prioritize connection and solidarity with patients, considers how concepts such as emotional intelligence and emotional regulation may be pertinent in the training of future physicians and notes the relevance of such models and concepts to curricular innovation.

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