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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

‘No need to worry’: an exploration of general practitioners’ reassuring strategies

Esther Giroldi12*, Wemke Veldhuijzen12, Carolien Leijten1, Dionne Welter1, Trudy van der Weijden1, Jean Muris1 and Cees van der Vleuten2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine, Maastricht University, School of Public Health and Primary Care (CAPHRI), P.O. Box 616, Maastricht, The Netherlands

2 Department of Educational Development and Research, Maastricht University, School for Health Professions Education (SHE), P.O. Box 616, Maastricht, The Netherlands

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BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:133  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-133

Published: 7 July 2014



In view of the paucity of evidence regarding effective ways of reassuring worried patients, this study explored reassuring strategies that are considered useful by general practitioners (GPs).


In a study using a qualitative observational design, we re-analysed an existing dataset of fifteen stimulated recall interviews in which GPs elaborated on their communication with patients in two videotaped consultations. Additionally we held stimulated recall interviews with twelve GPs about two consultations selected for a strong focus on reassurance.


To reassure patients, GPs pursued multiple goals: 1. influencing patients’ emotions by promoting trust, safety and comfort, which is considered to be reassuring in itself and supportive of patients’ acceptance of reassuring information and 2. influencing patients’ cognitions by challenging patients’ belief that their symptoms are indicative of serious disease, often followed by promoting patients’ belief that their symptoms are benign. GPs described several actions to activate mechanisms to achieve these goals.


GPs described a wealth of reassuring strategies, which make a valuable contribution to the current literature on doctor-patient communication. This detailed description may provide practicing GPs with new tools and can inform future studies exploring the effectiveness of reassurance strategies.

Reassurance; Doctor-patient communication; General practice; Qualitative research