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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

'It gives you an understanding you can't get from any book.' The relationship between medical students' and doctors' personal illness experiences and their performance: a qualitative and quantitative study

Katherine Woolf*, Judith Cave, I Chris McManus and Jane E Dacre

BMC Medical Education 2007, 7:50  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-7-50

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Personal illness experiences: trauma or integration in 'post-medical' curriculum

kostas papilas   (2007-12-14 10:14)  Karpenissi Hospital email

Being an anesthesiologist, I have been under extreme time pressure and validated the usefulness of screening questionnaires to discern between patients whom I have to see preoperatively myself, from those that internists or residents may adequately give preoperative instructions. Personal experiences on the patient side, taught me that care is delivered from persons-physicians to persons-patients, no matter if a generalized system approach may view doctors as interchangeable. I still use the questionnaires, but nevertheless see ALL my patients preoperatively, even just to convey the message that I am cognizant of their medical problems and to offer them the chance to express in person their concerns to the doctor who is actually going to give the anesthetic. This a purely ethical and humane obligation, whose importance is not evident from an organizational perspective, but overworking is not an adequate excuse[1].

This excellent work of Wolf et al [2], gives good reason to the recommendation of the European Academy of Anaesthesiology that before being appointed to a consultant post, one should spend a full shift in bed in the recovery room, transferred for a radiogram etc. Being established on the physician side, one has sufficient defense to reflect upon and transform the experiences of the vulnerable side into mature practice, not post-traumatic uncertainty. It is not professionalism and deontology that cannot be taught, but patient vulnerability that cannot be quantified and easily transferred. Perhaps, this research might provide us with a hint about ‘post-doc’ training to deal with medical narcissism and, also, feel comfortable with the difficulties posed by the ‘expert’ patient [3].

1. Hansson MG, Kihlbom U, Tuvemo T, Olsen LA, Rodriguez A. Ethics takes time, but not that long. BMC Med Ethics. 2007 May 24;8:6.

2. Woolf K, Cave J, McManus IC, Dacre JE. 'It gives you an understanding you can't get from any book'. The relationship between medical students' and doctors' personal illness experiences and their performance: a qualitative and quantitative study. BMC Med Educ. 2007 Dec 5;7(1):50.

3. Shaw J, Baker M. "Expert patient"--dream or nightmare? BMJ. 2004. 27;328(7442):723-4.

Competing interests

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