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Appreciation of Humanity & Empathy Among Critical Care Physicians - A Mixed Methods Study

Principal Investigator(s): Imelda Galvin
Status: Not yet enrolling

Patients who suffer from life-threatening illnesses are often unconscious, confused, extremely weak and connected to life support machines and therefore unable to make eye contact, talk, or move normally. These factors can make it difficult for health care providers to fully appreciate who each patient is as a person and to understand their feelings. There is increasing concern that these difficulties may adversely affect the care that these patients receive.

Currently we know almost nothing about:

  • Whether and how physicians who care for patients with life-threatening illnesses try to understand who these patients are as persons, and how they may be feeling
  • Which factors help physicians appreciate who patients are as persons and which factors make it more difficult.
  • How appreciation of who patients are as persons affects the care that physicians provide to them and their families.

By asking critical care physicians about these issues through a nationwide survey and through in-depth interviews we will be able to:

  • Develop a better understanding of the magnitude of the problem related to the appreciation of patients who have life-threatening illnesses as individual persons .
  • Identify things that can be done to make it easier for physicians to appreciate the humanity of patients who have life-threatening illnesses, and express empathy towards them.
  • Design ways of improving the measurement of the extent to which physicians appreciate the humanity of these patients.
  • Identify other important unanswered questions in this new area that need to be studied so that we can find ways of helping physicians who look after critically ill patients to view and treat each patient as a unique person, and to promote a more compassionate approach to their care.

This study is part of a larger program of research on Appreciation of Humanity & Empathy in Critical Care.  


Participating Centres:

Canada-wide survey

Co-investigators:

Peter Dodek
Karen Burns
Dominique Piquette
Jim Kutsogiannis
Andrew Seeley
Sangeeta Mehta
Jennifer Foster
Katherine Poser
Emmanuel Charbonney