Corrections added after first online publication on 4 December 2013: In order to protect patient privacy, the names of places and locations in conversations have been omitted.
In search of compassion: a new taxonomy of compassionate physician behaviours
Article first published online: 4 DEC 2013
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Volume 18, Issue 5, pages 1672–1685, October 2015
How to Cite
Cameron, R. A., Mazer, B. L., DeLuca, J. M., Mohile, S. G. and Epstein, R. M. (2015), In search of compassion: a new taxonomy of compassionate physician behaviours. Health Expectations, 18: 1672–1685. doi: 10.1111/hex.12160
- Issue published online: 25 SEP 2015
- Article first published online: 4 DEC 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 31 OCT 2013
- NIH/NCI. Grant Number: R01CA140419-01A2
- University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
- patient suffering
Compassion has been extolled as a virtue in the physician–patient relationship as a response to patient suffering. However, there are few studies that systematically document the behavioural features of physician compassion and the ways in which physicians communicate compassion to patients.
To develop a taxonomy of compassionate behaviours and statements expressed by the physician that can be discerned by an outside observer.
Qualitative analysis of audio-recorded office visits between oncologists and patients with advanced cancer.
Setting and Participants
Oncologists (n = 23) and their patients with advanced cancer (n = 49) were recruited in the greater Rochester, New York, area. The physicians and patients were surveyed and had office visits audio recorded.
Main Outcome Measures
Audio recordings were listened to for qualitative assessment of communication skills.
Our sensitizing framework was oriented around three elements of compassion: recognition of the patient's suffering, emotional resonance and movement towards addressing suffering. Statements of compassion included direct statements, paralinguistic expressions and performative comments. Compassion frequently unfolded over the course of a conversation rather than being a single discrete event. Additionally, non-verbal linguistic elements (e.g. silence) were frequently employed to communicate emotional resonance.
Discussion and Conclusions
This study is the first to systematically catalogue instances of compassionate communication in physician-patient dialogues. Further refinement and validation of this preliminary taxonomy can guide future education and training interventions to facilitate compassion in physician–patient interactions.