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The good doctor: the carer's perspective

Carers are family members, friends, and neighbours who perform medical tasks and personal care, manage housekeeping and financial affairs, and provide emotional support to people who are ill, disabled, or elderly. From a carer's perspective, the primary requisite for a good doctor is competence. Assuming equal technical skills and knowledge, the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ doctors comes down to attitudes and behaviour-communication. An important aspect of communication is what doctors say to carers, and how they interpret what carers say to them. Body language-stances, gestures and expression-communicates as well. Good doctors are surrounded by courteous, helpful and efficient assistants. Doctors can make two types of errors in dealing with carers. Type 1 errors occur when doctors exclude the carer from decision making and information. Type 2 errors occur when doctors speak only to the carer and ignore the patient. Good doctors, patients and carers confront the existential meaning of illness together.

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Clin Med

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