Why do our hearts sink? Primer to managing difficult patient interactions

Why do our hearts sink?The following tutorial was first delivered to Phase 3 students in the summer teaching period of the Primary Care course, of the UNSW Medicine Program on Friday 7 February 2014.

  • Length: 50 minutes
  • Class size: up to ~ 80
  • Learners: senior medical students

Learning materials:

Learning activity aim:

To demonstrate how difficult patient-doctor interactions occur in general practice, and can be understood and managed using a psychodynamic perspective.

Learning outcomes:

At the end of this learning activity, students will be able to:

  • Recognise “heartsink” patient interactions
  • Reflect upon and make sense of difficult patient-doctor relationships using the concepts of transference and countertransference
  • Describe approaches to managing heartsink patient interactions


Creative Commons Licence
“Why do our hearts sink? Primer to managing difficult patient interactions” by Michael Tam is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.

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