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Konichiwa!  Thank you for your interest in IMPACT and Family Medicine!  I am Carrie, wife of Dr. Ito and former nurse in the U.S.  The purpose of this blog is to help medical professionals who would like to improve their English Medical Communication skills.  If you have any questions or topics you would like me to address, please email me.


For the first series, I will be discussing a few things that have been helpful for students/ doctors taking the USMLE Step 2 test.  As you may have already learned by researching this website, we do CHAT sessions where I act as a patient and people can interview me in English.  We use a checklist to evaluate the students on their assessment and their communication skills.  I also give them advice on their English usage.


Today we will discuss one of the most often missed points on the communication checklist—empathy.  Empathy is identifying with another person’s feelings—in this case, the patient’s.  There is a saying that illustrates this idea… “Put yourself in their shoes.”  I feel that this is a very important thing for all medical professionals to remember even if it weren’t a point on the checklist.  The patient and family can really feel whether you care about them or not.  If you practice outside of Japan, many patients may be somewhat doubtful of you as a foreigner, so if you can show them that you really care, they will trust you more. 


Many students ask us how to phrase empathy.  One of the best ways to say it is, “This situation must be very difficult for you” or “If I were you, I would think this is awful”…something like that.  “I’m sorry” is sympathy—not empathy.  Sympathy is also appropriate to use in some situations, but empathy is more meaningful.  As far as the Step 2 test goes, we often encourage our clients to get in the habit of saying this empathy line as soon as they hear the chief complaint.  There may be other times that are naturally appropriate to use empathy, but in most cases it is appropriate when you hear their problem.   


So, go ahead and start practicing empathy with all of your patient interactions!  See how it changes the feeling of your interaction.  Feel free to leave us a comment about how your experience goes!



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