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J Health Commun. 2001 Oct-Dec;6(4):323-33.

Relational control in difficult physician-patient encounters: negotiating treatment for pain.

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Department of Internal Medicine/Medical Education, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.


Many physicians report feelings of frustration and anger resulting from encounters with patients during which there is disagreement over the use of narcotics to treat pain. In this article, investigators report a relational control analysis of transcripts of three encounters of this type in order to explore the control dimension of these interactions. Similar analyses in the literature have reported that patients in general attempt to gain control of the interaction more often than previously thought. Results of this analysis, however, were remarkable in that nearly half of the transactions were characterized by competition for control. In addition, a descriptive analysis of the control-gaining strategies revealed physician strategies of giving instructions and orders, explicitly rejecting or disagreeing, providing reasons, and attempting to negotiate; patient strategies included explicitly rejecting or disagreeing and providing reasons. Communication skills training may enhance physicians' ability to understand their feelings of discomfort in this type of interaction as well as train them to be more effective communicators during interactions in which there is a struggle for control.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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