Losing touch with the patient

The New York Times, October 22, 2010

In the current issue of The Annals of Family Medicine, Dr. Leif Hass, a family practice physician working as a hospitalist at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., eloquently describes some of these repercussions. After he and his daughter recuperate from mysterious arm and leg infections caused by the drug-resistant MRSA bacteria, Dr. Hass suddenly finds himself reaching for gloves every time he sees a patient in the hospital. He is torn between his sense of duty to reach out, gloveless, to “the people most in need of touch” and a gripping and not entirely irrational fear that “hospital wards that had been so familiar now seemed like uncontrollable pools of pathogens.”

Such fear of contagion among physicians, studies have shown, can compromise the quality of care delivered.

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