Physician–patient interaction: a gynecology clinic in Turkey
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Evidence for gender differences in physicians' communication with their patients comes primarily from Western countries. Little is known about whether these gender differences would also be observed in Turkey, where there are explicit rules about male-female conduct. The purpose of this study was to observe male and female gynecologists' communication with their patients in a gynecology clinic at a state hospital in Istanbul, Turkey. Four male and three female gynecologists were observed in their interaction with 70 patients over 10 days. The observations were conducted during both the history taking and the actual examination sessions by a woman researcher. The results reported in this paper are based on the extensive field notes taken during the observations. Important differences were revealed in interactions between male vs female gynecologists and their patients. Namely, interactions differed in terms of conversation initiation, communication style, use of technical and colloquial language, frequency of eye contact, patience, and provision of information. Communication characteristics specific to interactions between male gynecologists and their patients included a 'blaming the victim' approach, differential treatment of patients, and underestimation of patients' abilities. Environmental factors that affected physicians' interaction with their patients are reported in conjunction with physicians' use of these external factors to explain the problems they experienced in physician-patient interaction. The discussion focuses on alternative explanations for and future research implications of the observed differences between male and female gynecologists in this setting.
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