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Teaching Physical Diagnosis— Emotions and Privileges

Rich Davis, MD
JAMA. 1973;226(9):1114-1115. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03230090038009.
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Although the primary purpose of any text or course in physical diagnosis is to enlighten the learner about successful methods of physical diagnosis, there should be an important, if somewhat secondary, purpose. That is to alert and educate the learner about the psychological process occurring and the emotions being stirred during a physical examination. The great majority of both texts and courses tend to ignore the emotional dimension engendered by one human physically and verbally probing another. Yet physician-patient interaction is rarely more delicately experienced, at least by the patient, than during a physical examination.

All that a physician need do to refresh the intense personal significance of such an experience is to submit to it by a fellow physician. However sophisticated and educated he or she may be, there is a feeling, at times bordering on helplessness, as one submits to nakedness, cold instruments, and casual, if professional, disinterest


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