Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Support quality journalism
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24weeks
The Globe and Mail
Support quality journalism
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Globe and Mail website displayed on various devices
Just$1.99
per week
for the first 24weeks

var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){console.log("scroll");var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1);

A customer sips her coffee in Starbucks' Mayfair Vigo Street branch in central London in this September 12, 2012

ANDREW WINNING/REUTERS

Do you ever feel like your doctor isn't really listening to you?

Forbes contributor Peter Ubel, a physician and behavioural scientist at Duke University, raises a provocative argument: You may receive more sympathy from a Starbucks employee than your doctor, he suggests, claiming that Starbucks employees often exhibit more emotional intelligence.

"It comes down to training," Ubel writes. Starbucks workers are well trained to listen to customers and to acknowledge and respond to their complaints.

Story continues below advertisement

Physicians, on the other hand, may be highly trained to recognize and treat illnesses, he says. "But outside of psychiatry training, or the rare enlightened medical school, we don't even receive a fraction of the training that Starbucks employees receive about how to recognize and respond to people when they express negative emotion."

Ubel explains that this lack of emotional training shows up in audio recordings of doctor-patient interactions. If a patient with cancer tells his doctor, "I'm scared," Ubel says, his doctor replies with, "Well, it looks like your blood pressure has been a little high lately."

As Time magazine reported last year, rude physicians can even put patients' health in danger if hospital staff are unwilling to confront uncivil doctors about potential errors.

While Ubel makes the case that doctors should be more attuned to their patients' emotional needs, some online commenters have found his comparison of doctors to Starbucks employees "insulting."

"I've been compared to many things as a physician, but not a Starbucks employee. As a resident, sometimes it is hard to keep a fake smile on that 70th hour when you have children around you dying of cancer," one commenter wrote on the Forbes website. "We are scientists, not clowns. It is a hospital, not a hotel. Doctors should be nice but it is not priority one. Practicing [sic] medicine is priority number one."

Another challenged Ubel's claim that physicians lack emotional training: "I am in no way saying that all doctors have amazing bedside manner; however I am stating that it is absolutely untrue to insinuate that physicians-in-training receive no instruction on how to deal with the emotional needs of the patient population."

Is Ubel's assessment fair? Should doctors be expected to treat patients as Starbucks employees treat customers?

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies