How much do surgeons like their patients?

Patient Educ Couns. 2006 Jun;61(3):429-34. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2005.05.009. Epub 2005 Jul 15.


Objectives: Physicians experience feelings of caring and sometimes frustration toward patients during routine visits. To date, no studies have explored surgeons' feelings toward patients. Our objectives were: (1) to examine how much surgeons like their patients and (2) to assess the relationship of surgeons' liking to patient and surgeon characteristics and to patient satisfaction.

Methods: Participants included 66 surgeons (orthopaedic and general surgeons) in community practice in Colorado and Oregon, and 701 of their patients. Exit questionnaires asked surgeons how much they liked the patient on a 1-5 scale ranging from "not at all" to "very much". Patients scored satisfaction with the visit on a 1-5 scale. Logistic regression was conducted with surgeon liking and patient satisfaction as dependent variables.

Results: Surgeons' ratings of liking ranged across all five categories. Patient characteristics including age over 65 years, higher education and income, and better health were associated with higher liking scores. Surgeon characteristics hours worked per week, practice setting and surgeons' self-rating of their own health were associated with liking. Patient satisfaction were associated with "liking".

Conclusion and practice implications: These findings shed light on a rarely addressed issue-surgeons' feelings toward their patients. We found that surgeons do not like their patients equally. Their feelings are associated with surgeon and patient characteristics, and with patient satisfaction. Our findings have important implications for surgeons seeking to improve care striving to enhance or maintain their own career satisfaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Colorado
  • Educational Status
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Frustration
  • General Surgery* / organization & administration
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Office Visits
  • Oregon
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Professional Competence / standards
  • Self-Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires