Eric Legras … THEDOCTORFACTORY … Health & Wellness Strategic Marketing


Should the Doctor Hold a Patient’s Hand? by The Doctor Factory

The New York Times

Jordan M. Gutovich, a Philadelphia medical student, was standing at a patient’s bedside when the man began to cry, an experience he writes about in a recent essay in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Earlier in the year, he and his fellow students had seen their instructor take the hand of another tearful patient, a move that prompted extensive debate among the class.

Some students expressed concerns about the appropriateness of holding a patient’s hand and whether doing so might be deemed an intrusion into the patient’s personal space. After facilitating a discussion about the matter, Dr C concluded that a physician has to use appropriate judgment and be personally comfortable with holding a patient’s hand before extending his or her own.

But then Mr. Gutovich found himself seated next to a crying patient.

I was at a loss for words to respond to my patient’s tearfulness. Instead, I took his hand and held it firmly. He gently squeezed my hand in reply. The room was briefly silent. Somehow, my gesture, I believe, seemed to confer a wordless message of support and encouragement.

To hear more from Mr. Gutovich, read the full essay, “Holding the Hand,” and then please join the discussion below.

Have you shed tears at the doctor’s office? If so, how would you feel about a doctor taking hold of your hand as you cried?


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