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‘‘If you cannot tolerate that risk, you should never become a physician’’: a qualitative study about existential experiences among physicians

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dc.contributor.author Schaufel, Margrethe Aase
dc.contributor.author Nordrehaug, Jan Erik
dc.contributor.author Malterud, Kirsti
dc.date.accessioned 2011-07-28T12:07:55Z
dc.date.available 2011-07-28T12:07:55Z
dc.date.issued 2008
dc.identifier.citation Journal of Medical Ethics 34(11): 767-771 en_US
dc.identifier.issn 0306-6800
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/1956/4857
dc.identifier.uri http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jme.2007.023275
dc.description.abstract Background and objectives: Physicians are exposed to matters of existential character at work, but little is known about the personal impact of such issues. Methods: To explore how physicians experience and cope with existential aspects of their clinical work and how such experiences affect their professional identities, a qualitative study using individual semistructured interviews has analysed accounts of their experiences related to coping with such challenges. Analysis was by systematic text condensation. The purposeful sample comprised 10 physicians (including three women), aged 33–66 years, residents or specialists in cardiology or cardiothoracic surgery, working in a university hospital with 24-hour emergency service and one general practitioner. Results: Participants described a process by which they were able to develop a capacity for coping with the existential challenges at work. After episodes perceived as shocking or horrible earlier in their career, they at present said that they could deal with death and mostly keep it at a distance. Vulnerability was closely linked to professional responsibility and identity, perceived as a burden to be handled. These demands were balanced by an experience of meaning related to their job, connected to making a difference in their patients’ lives. Belonging to a community of their fellows was a presupposition for coping with the loneliness and powerlessness related to their vulnerable professional position. Conclusions: Physicians’ vulnerability facing life and death has been underestimated. Belonging to caring communities may assist growth and coping on exposure to existential aspects of clinical work and developing a professional identity. en_US
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher BMJ Publishing Group en
dc.rights Copyright 2008 British Medical Journal Publishing Group en_US
dc.title ‘‘If you cannot tolerate that risk, you should never become a physician’’: a qualitative study about existential experiences among physicians en_US
dc.type Journal article en_US
dc.type Peer reviewed en_US
dc.subject.nsi VDP::Medical disciplines: 700::Health sciences: 800::Medical/dental ethics, behavioural sciences, history: 805 en_US
dc.rightsHolder British Medical Journal Publishing Group. en_US
dc.type.version publishedVersion en_US


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