Defensive dehumanization in the medical practice: A cross-sectional study from a health care worker's perspective



Health care workers are often required to consider the emotions of their patients making their work susceptible for burnout. Extending recent developments in work on dehumanization, the present study tested whether or not considering a patient's suffering in terms of uniquely human compared to more basic emotions, would be linked with burnout especially for those health care workers that frequently encounter emotional demands through their contact with suffering patients. Professional health care workers were presented with the fictitious case of a terminal patient and asked to infer her emotional state in terms of uniquely human or basic, primary emotions. As expected, humanizing a patient's suffering positively predicted symptoms of burnout especially for those participants that had higher levels of direct contact with patients.