Interpersonal Skills

The quality of the interaction between physician and patient can be extremely influential in patient outcomes.



Interpersonal skills

Doctor-doctor relationship

Doctor-nurse relationship

Doctor- manager relationship

What doctors and managers can learn from each other

Trends in doctor-manager relationships

Improving interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills rating form


It is extremely important for doctors to have strong interpersonal skills. Effective interpersonal skills are a cornerstone of a physician’s professional identity. The expectation from health care professionals is beyond just knowledge of the medical facts. Doctors must be able to establish therapeutic doctor-patient relationships and work within multidisciplinary teams in a manner that facilitates patient care.  


The advantages of a mutually satisfying patient-doctor relationship have been well described in the literature. In addition to therapeutic benefits to patients, improved patient adherence, and fewer malpractice suits, maintaining patient loyalty through improved patient satisfaction is a factor of increasing importance in today’s managed care environment.  To have a chance of being successful doctor, every interpersonal contact must have an objective and every effort

must be made to avoid creating win-lose transactions whenever possible


Good interpersonal skills can lead to: less litigation, creating a friendly environment for patients and staff, increased productivity of the staff, effective time management, improvement in patient care and development of good reputation for the institute or hospital.


All of these are vital tools and are becoming increasingly essential subjects in teaching both undergraduate students and postgraduate doctors. However, a degree of self-motivation and personal initiative is needed to develop these skills. There are important deficiencies in our interpersonal skills that could potentially be addressed by way of targeted training. There are many models to assess interpersonal skills either by direct observation, feedback from patients, 360º reviews and videotaped consultation This kind of assessment should become an essential part of the annual appraisal process of all hospital doctors.

Emotional intelligence


Empathy is the feeling relationship in which the physician understands the patient's plight as if the physician were the patient. The physician identifies with the patient and at the same time maintains a distance. Empathetic communication enhances the therapeutic effectiveness of the clinician-patient relationship.


Issues of emotional maturity, self-awareness, and personal well-being remain critical to success in the practice of medicine as in other fields. Emotional intelligence is about empathy, handling relationships, managing emotions, and self awareness. These attributes are important for every medical student. Epstein et al described its components such as active listening on the part of the physician, responding to patients’ emotions, physician self-awareness, and respect for individuals. These components are similar to the domains that are currently being investigated as constituting non-cognitive intelligence, i.e., “emotional intelligence” (EI).


Handling stress

Doctors in training face death, disability, pain, and depression every day. Even if they use the white coat as protection, underneath a feeling person has to find a way to cope with the distress that patients bring. Of course, one can ignore these issues—for example, many doctors bury themselves in work—and medical culture tends to encourage this approach. Tragically, this mentality can lead to sudden heart attack or other serious illness. Other dysfunctional ways to cope include resorting to alcohol and other drugs.



The proportion of doctors and other health professionals showing above-threshold levels of stress has stayed remarkably constant at around 28%, whether the studies are cross sectional or longitudinal, compared with around 18% in the general working population (BMJ). What has changed over the years is that doctors have become used to discussing the topic of stress and even to admitting to it in themselves. They are more aware of their colleagues' symptoms than they were, which means that they may be more likely to help colleagues through a difficult time or suggest they get help when they need it.

One may work in an environment where “real doctors get on with the job and only the weak weep or feel distressed.” This pressure to deny emotions can have a profound effect on one’s health. We need to move from this culture to one where medical students and doctors can openly share emotions and ask for help.




Overview of the learning process

Questions posed

Communication skills

Scientific temper

Interpersonal Skills

Emotional Intelligence

Leadership and teamwork


Service Orientation

Assessment of Non-scholastic abilities

Dialogue and discussion by the Chatterati!

Summary Interpersonal skills



Cartoon Corner

Contact us

Visitors' Book