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PLoS One. 2018 May 15;13(5):e0196888. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0196888. eCollection 2018.

Understanding how patients perceive physician wellness and its links to patient care: A qualitative study.

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Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
W21C Research and Innovation Center, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Alberta Health Services, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Despite increased interest in physician wellness, little is known about patients' views on the topic. We explore patients' perceptions of physician wellness and how it links to patient care. This exploratory, qualitative study employed semi-structured interviews with a convenience sample of 20 patients from outpatient care settings in a western Canadian city. Using inductive thematic analysis, interview transcripts were independently coded by two authors and then discussed to ensure consensus and to abstract into higher-level themes. Three overarching premises were identified. First, patients notice cues that they interpret as signs of physician wellness. These include overt indicators, such as a physician's demeanor or physical appearance, along with a general impression about a physician's wellness. Second, patients form judgments based on what they notice, and these judgments affect patients' views about their care; feelings, such as trust, in their interactions with physicians; and actions, such as following care plans. Third, participants perceive a bi-directional link between physician wellness and patient care. Physician wellness impacts patient care, but physician wellness is also impacted by the care they provide and the challenges they face within the healthcare system. Patients' judgments regarding physician wellness may have important impacts on the doctor-patient relationship. Furthermore, patients appear to have a nuanced understanding about how physicians' work may put physicians at risk for being unwell. Patients may be powerful allies in supporting physician wellness initiatives focused on the shared responsibility of individual physicians, the medical profession, and healthcare organizations.

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