We should value competency over empathy
During a recent visit to my general practitioner, I had my blood taken by a medical student. He missed and, as his face paled from empathy to my pain, I leaked blood all over the table. Before he could take another stab at it, a stern faced but more competent nurse swooped in to finish the job.
Skim the bibles of modern medical practice, such as Tomorrow’s Doctors or Duties of a Doctor, and you will notice that empathy is regularly cited as a quality all doctors must have.1 Defined as emotional identification with patients, empathy features highly on the entrance criteria of medical schools—part of the general ebb and flow away from biomedical instruction and towards an integrated humanistic curriculum.2 If you don’t have empathy, you must at least have the capacity to develop it.
But time spent training to be empathetic siphons valuable, instructional time. Last term, I