The seasons of the patient-physician relationship

Clin Geriatr Med. 2000 Feb;16(1):37-50. doi: 10.1016/s0749-0690(05)70006-9.


There are seasons in the geriatric patient-physician relationship. As they age together, doctors and patients see one another through crises, recoveries, uncertainties, and losses, slowly weaving between them at times tapestries of complex narrative richness. What is known about the patient-physician relationship from scientific research can be contemplated by what is known about intimate human relationships. This article turns to three poems, written by Charles Simic, Wallace Stevens, and T. S. Eliot, to understand how the passage of time might lead to human intersubjective understanding. A method of reflecting on individual clinical relationships, first through a close reading of the medical records of patients and then through narrative writing about the individual patient-physician relationship as illuminated by retrospection, is then introduced. Three patients in the practice of the author are described in detail within the frameworks suggested by the poems, and directions for future research are outlined.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care / psychology
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • United States