CanMeds Communicator
The Doctor-Patient Relationship

The Doctor-Patient Relationship


The student begins with the patient, continues with the patient, and ends his studies with the patient, using books and lectures as tools, as means to an end.  - Sir William Osler


The relationship between physician and patient is central to our work - this relationship underpins all other interventions. 


An effective doctor-patient relationship helps with:

  • identifying the health issues

  • organizing plans

  • maintaining patient confidence

  • physician work satisfaction and well-being


Difficult communications, or difficult interactions with angry and dissatisfied patients can be upsetting, emotionally draining and stressful. 



Describe a situation where you wish you had been a better communicator. In retrospect, what could you have done differently?


Skill, expertise and lots of practice are required to be an effective communicator. Patients and families expect this of us.


As a resident, you are given significant responsibility for communication.  This increased responsibility may come without the necessary medical knowledge needed for confident communication.  Recognize your own limitations. Watch the skilled communicators around you and try to learn from them and then develop your own style.



Much has been written about the doctor-patient (or physician-patient, client-physician) relationship.  However you name it, the elements of effective and appropriate communication must be maintained.



Debbie Docherty, MSW



In this video clip, what does Debbie Docherty describe as necessary for effective communication?


Do you agree with her distinction between patient-centred care and relationship-centred care? Does thinking about it in this way change the way you will approach clinical encounters? What will you do differently?