"Notice how you feel": an alternative to detached concern among hospice volunteers

Qual Health Res. 2006 Sep;16(7):944-61. doi: 10.1177/1049732306290233.


Medical schools teach physicians to practice "detached concern," a simultaneous emotional distance from and sensitivity toward their patients. Medical students learn detachment to protect themselves from emotion-laden experiences, including death and dying, by employing mechanisms of defense and adjustment, such as suppression and repression of emotions. In this study, the author inquires whether hospice volunteers are trained for and practice detached concern and finds that hospice volunteers are trained for concern. They are concerned for the well-being of patients and their families. The author argues that concern is a social product that can be trained; hospice volunteers are not trained to suppress and repress their emotions, and the hospice as an institution produces and transmits cultural norms, values, and practices surrounding death and dying, thus maintaining a pool of concerned volunteers.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Hospices*
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • United States
  • Volunteers / psychology*