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Interacting with Clinicians

Posted on July 24, 2007

When working with clincians, learn the language advises Christopher L. Edwards (bio).


I think there are often challenges when researchers work with clinicians. And it doesn’t matter whether those clinicians are MDs or PhDs, often the language of clinical practice is different from the language of research. And I think a part of what a researcher does in terms of interacting effectively with clinicians, both PhDs and MDs, is you learn their language. You learn what is important for them. You begin to understand the priorities that they have. And you speak in terms of those priorities. And often you find that their ability to interact with you, and your ability to interact with them, is quite enhanced.

It is sometimes even more strained when a PhD is working with an MD, and that is the language set is often very, very different if you don’t have medical training or a biologically based background. And I think it’s important to do your homework, to make sure that you understand the language, you understand the priorities.

A physician that is seeing patients all day is often very different from a physician that is a researcher. And their understanding of research priorities, their understanding of where patients fit into the big scheme of things is often quite different than the physician that sees patients all day.

When you’re interacting with a true clinician it is important that you understand that anything that you do that interrupts clinical practice is not gonna be received well. And so if you’re adding questionnaires, if you’re adding procedures, you must do that with some sensitivity to the fact that those physicians often have volumes that are very important to their survival, very important to their overall practice, and they’re not willing to give up those volumes for your research.

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