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Health Commun. 2012;27(5):449-56. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2011.606527. Epub 2011 Oct 4.

The effect of resident physician stress, burnout, and empathy on patient-centered communication during the long-call shift.

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School of Communication Studies, James Madison University, MSC 2106, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, USA.


During the long-call shift medical residents experience a number of stressors that could compromise the quality of care they provide to their patients. The aim of this study was to investigate how perceived stress and burnout affect changes in empathy over the long-call shift and how those changes in empathy are associated with patient-centered communication practices. Residents (n=93) completed self-report measures of stress, burnout, and empathy at the start of their long-call shift and then completed measures of empathy and patient-centered communication at the end of the same shift. There was a significant decline in physician empathy from the beginning to the end of the long-call shift. Perceived stress was significantly associated with higher burnout, which was, in turn, significantly associated with declines in empathy from pre- to posttest. Declines in empathy predicted lower self-reported patient-centered communication during the latter half of the shift. This study suggests that residents who perceive high levels of stress are at risk for burnout and deterioration in empathy toward their patients, both of which may compromise the quality of their interactions with patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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