Learning Medical Values

Professional socialization refers to the process of learning the skills, knowledge, and values of an occupation. During their long years of training, doctors learn not only a vast quantity of technical information but also a set of medical norms—expectations about how doctors should act, think, and feel. As this section describes, the most important of these norms are that doctors should value emotional detachment, trust clinical experience more than scientific evidence, master uncertainty, adopt a mechanistic model of the body, trust intervention more than normal bodily processes, and prefer treating rare or acute illnesses rather than common or chronic illnesses.

Emotional Detachment Undoubtedly, most doctors enter medicine because they want to help others. Yet perhaps the most central medical norm is to maintain emotional detachment from patients. As illustrated by the story that opened this chapter, medical culture values and rewards “strength” and equates emotional involvement or expression with weakness .

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