Factors in the doctor-patient relationship that accentuate physicians' hurt feelings when patients terminate the relationship with them

Shlomo Hareli, Orit Karnieli-Miller, Doron Hermoni, Shmuel Eidelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The present study explores the emotional effect of the injury experienced by physician's, as a consequence of a patient's termination of their relationship. Methods: A vignette study using different scenarios describing a patient who switched to another doctor was distributed to 119 family physicians. A three-way ANCOVA analysis was employed. Additionally, physicians' answered an open question asking of situations that elicited negative emotions. Results: The quantitative results indicated that termination of the relationship by a "high status" patient and/or after a long duration is more emotionally hurtful than termination by a "lower status" patient after a brief relationship. The results of the open question provided an additional insight into the emotional impact of the doctor's hurt feelings on the doctor-patient relationship. Conclusions: The severity and consequences of the emotional injury experienced by physicians when patients decide to transfer to another physician are influenced by factors related to the patient, physician and the relationship between them. Practice implications: We discuss the implications of our results on the understanding of the emotional injury and consequent impaired function and possible "burn-out" in physicians and explore the possibility of educating doctors to heightened awareness and consequently enhanced ability to cope with such situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-175
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the physicians willing to participate in the study and Clalit Health Care Services for providing us access to their physicians. We also appreciate and thank Ms. Ludmila Krivush for her assistance in collecting and coding the data. This research was funded by a Faculty grant to the Center of Excellence for Patient-Professional Relationships in Health Care Professions, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Studies, University of Haifa, Haifa.


  • Hurt feelings
  • Physician's emotions
  • Termination of physician-patient relationship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Factors in the doctor-patient relationship that accentuate physicians' hurt feelings when patients terminate the relationship with them'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this