Background: The Dutch government has chosen a policy of strengthening palliative care in order to enable patients to die at home according to their preference. In order to facilitate this care by GPs, we wanted to know how to support them in their training. Therefore we examined the ways in which the death of a patient influences the doctor both at a professional and at a personal level.
Methods: Based on a qualitative study, we developed a model for reflection for GP trainees on the meaning of the death of patients and its influence on the GP. The qualitative study was done in 2007 and is based on open in-depth interviews and a focus group. We recruited 18 participants who were highly professional GPs and experienced in talking about the death of patients. We invited GPs from a list of experienced GPs, who in addition are also second-opinion GPs for euthanasia (SCEN-physicians) and from a pool of GP trainers, our intention being to include GPs holding a variety of world views. Interviews were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. A grounded theory approach was used to analyze the results. Themes were first identified independently by three researchers, then after discussion these three sets were rearranged to one list of themes and their mutual relation were determined. A model for the interaction of the GP at professional and at a personal level was formulated.
Results: Forty three themes emerged from the interviews and focus group. These themes fell into three groups: professional values and experiences, personal values and experiences, and the opinions of the GPs as to what constitutes a good death. We constructed a model of the doctor-patient relationship on the basis of these findings. This model enables GP trainees identifying the unique character of the doctor-patient relationship as well as its reciprocity when the two were confronted by the patient's impending death.
Conclusions: In dealing with the approaching death of a patient the unique interaction between patient and doctor and the cumulative experiences of doctors with their patients brings about a shift in the GP's own values. The professional development of GP trainees may be facilitated by reflection on the interaction of their own values and beliefs.
- HOSPITAL DOCTORS