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The Art and the Calling
January 2003

Some Words That Matter

Arch Dermatol. 2003;139(1):21-22. doi:10.1001/archderm.139.1.21

A year ago, I conducted an American Academy of Dermatology breakfast session on "communication skills for the practicing dermatologist." As a beginning exercise, I asked those in attendance to list the things they say and do in their practice to make patients feel more comfortable and cared for. As I jotted suggestions onto a flip chart, we saw that each of us had developed our own creative ways of expressing empathy and concern. These were specific phrases and actions that had become our valuable tools in the day-to-day work of caring for patients. Participants were proud of these "tricks of the trade" and were delighted to share and discuss them, but it seemed like such a rare opportunity. Why, one participant wondered, is so much of our continuing education devoted to diagnosis and treatment, and so little to the work of expressing empathy and developing relationships with our patients and their families?

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