University of Leicester eBulletin

Female Doctors Break Bad News Best

September 2003

Research has found that female doctors break bad news to patients better than their
male counterparts

These were the findings of L Tipper (Coventry University); S Bonas (University of Leicester) J Fisher & M Barnett (University of Warwick).

Both verbal and non-verbal behaviour of doctors were observed while breaking bad news for 32 male and 12 female doctors. Consultations were videotaped with actors role playing the patients. 

Female doctors had superior communication skills compared to male doctors. They used more ‘patient-centred’ communication techniques than their male colleagues, for example female doctors were more likely to make empathy building statements.

Clearly, there are male doctors with excellent communication skills, and not all female doctors are patient-centred. However this research suggests that, typically, female doctors are more likely to behave in a more patient-centred way when breaking bad news to patients. In the light of this, it is suggested that male doctors may benefit from being offered further communication skills training in breaking bad news that is tailored to their needs.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr Hilary Bekker, tel. 0113 233 2726, e-mail; Sue Cavill 0116 252 9500 (work), 0116 233 5169 (home).


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Last updated: September 2003
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