Why do medical residents prefer paternalistic decision making? An interview study

Ellen M Driever, Ivo M Tolhuizen, Robbert J Duvivier, Anne M Stiggelbout, Paul L P Brand

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Although shared decision making is championed as the preferred model for patient care by patient organizations, researchers and medical professionals, its application in daily practice remains limited. We previously showed that residents more often prefer paternalistic decision making than their supervisors. Because both the views of residents on the decision-making process in medical consultations and the reasons for their 'paternalism preference' are unknown, this study explored residents' views on the decision-making process in medical encounters and the factors affecting it.

METHODS: We interviewed 12 residents from various specialties at a large Dutch teaching hospital in 2019-2020, exploring how they involved patients in decisions. All participating residents provided written informed consent. Data analysis occurred concurrently with data collection in an iterative process informing adaptations to the interview topic guide when deemed necessary. Constant comparative analysis was used to develop themes. We ceased data collection when information sufficiency was achieved.

RESULTS: Participants described how active engagement of patients in discussing options and decision making was influenced by contextual factors (patient characteristics, logistical factors such as available time, and supervisors' recommendations) and by limitations in their medical and shared decision-making knowledge. The residents' decision-making behavior appeared strongly affected by their conviction that they are responsible for arriving at the correct diagnosis and providing the best evidence-based treatment. They described shared decision making as the process of patients consenting with physician-recommended treatment or patients choosing their preferred option when no best evidence-based option was available.

CONCLUSIONS: Residents' decision making appears to be affected by contextual factors, their medical knowledge, their knowledge about SDM, and by their beliefs and convictions about their professional responsibilities as a doctor, ensuring that patients receive the best possible evidence-based treatment. They confuse SDM with acquiring informed consent with the physician's treatment recommendations and with letting patients decide which treatment they prefer in case no evidence based guideline recommendation is available. Teaching SDM to residents should not only include skills training, but also target residents' perceptions and convictions regarding their role in the decision-making process in consultations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number155
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Medical Education
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8-Mar-2022

Keywords

  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Paternalism
  • Patient Participation
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians
  • Qualitative Research

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