article: ‘Pain underestimated by doctors for some patients’

Jane Barken, a professor at Loyalist College and member of both the North American SRV Council and the Southern Ontario Training Group, sent me a link to this CBC News article, pointing out that it has connections to the SRV theme of interpersonal identification. The article generally concerns a study done on how clinicians perceive and treat pain level as reported by patients. More specifically: “A University of Northern B.C. professor who is studying the impact of the clinician-patient relationship on how health professionals rate pain suggests it decreases if the clinician doesn’t like the patient.”

As we teach about in SRV, personal devaluation is likely to change the perception and subsequent treatment of the devalued person. In a situation where the person who devalues has power over the devalued person, this puts the devalued person in a vulnerable position to be badly treated. Social devaluation predictably causes negative consequences, negative treatment and ‘wounding’: “It means people with invisible pain — such as bad backs, as opposed to broken legs — may not get adequate treatment for the problem if the doctor disregards their feelings.”

In this study, clinicians were first shown photos of patients with apparently positive or neutral or negative personality traits, and second were shown videos of these same patients in pain. “The participants consistently rated the pain of patients associated with the negative traits, such as egotism and hostility, lower than the likable patients.” Those patients who were seen as unlikable were perceived to be in less pain (in comparison with patients seen as likable) and therefore were not adequately treated for pain.

The professor who ran the study commented on the importance of stepping into the shoes of other people, of trying to see things from their perspective. The idea of interpersonal identification in SRV theory is that if we can see ourselves in another person or see similarities, then we are more likely to want good things for that person and are more likely to do good things for that person (pp. 118-120 in the SRV monograph rev. 3rd ed. authored by Dr. Wolfensberger).

Posted on October 14, 2011 at 11:16 am by MTumeinski · Permalink
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