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Can Fam Physician. 2010 March; 56(3): 222.
PMCID: PMC2837681

Positive reinforcement

I spent this morning reviewing the titles of all contributions to this year’s issues of Canadian Family Physician and “This business of caring” caught my eye.1 I wondered, Do I respond or not? As a social worker and teacher of behavioural sciences in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon I am compelled to do so. Why? Because teaching communication skills involves noting a learner’s strengths and reinforcing them through the use of direct and indirect compliments.

Using solution-focused therapy techniques to guide my feedback, I applaud you, Dr Bielawska, for taking the time to put to paper your observations on the struggle inherent in being both a clinician and a healer. What made you do so, and what did you learn from the process? How will you build on your reservoir of empathy and ensure it continues to play a role in patient care? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the strongest and 1 being the weakest, rate your commitment to attending to the human side of patient care. Now that you have selected a number, scale your confidence in your abilities and skills to do so. What do you need to do to move that number up a notch?

Although you mentioned that “this challenge [is] not taught in any textbook or classroom” you are clearly a young woman who learns via a variety of experiences. Perhaps the world is your textbook? Whatever you are doing you are definitely on the right track. Thank you for taking the time and energy to share your perspective; in doing so, you normalize for your colleagues the inherent struggle of a patient-centred family physician to do right by patients without sacrificing enthusiasm for the science of medicine.


1. Bielawska H. This business of caring. Can Fam Physician. 2009;55:947. (Eng), CFPlus (Fr). [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Canadian Family Physician are provided here courtesy of College of Family Physicians of Canada