DOI: 10.3390/healthcare11172450 ISSN:

General Practitioners’ Own Traumatic Experiences and Their Skills in Addressing Patients’ Past History of Adversities: A Cross-Sectional Study in Portugal

Mariana Sá, Paulo Almeida Pereira, Ivone Castro-Vale
  • Health Information Management
  • Health Informatics
  • Health Policy
  • Leadership and Management

Addressing trauma has been found to be important for primary care patients, as it can improve their health-related outcomes. We aimed to assess how Portuguese general practitioners’ (GPs) past history of traumatic events (TEs) and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) influence their clinical communication skills when addressing their patients’ past history of adversities. An online survey was circulated by email to GPs’ associations and through GPs’ social media groups. A sample of 143 GPs participated in this study. GPs’ exposure to ACEs and TEs was assessed using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire-Short Form and the Life Events Checklist for the DSM-5. To evaluate clinical communication skills, we adapted the Self-confidence Scale and used the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy. GPs identified barriers to addressing trauma routinely, including a lack of time (86.7%) and a fear of causing further patient suffering (56.6%). GPs’ exposure to TEs and ACEs was positively correlated with scores in some dimensions of self-confidence and empathy (r values varying from 0.170 to 0.247). GPs exposed to traumatic experiences felt more confident when addressing their patients’ adversities and were more empathic when conducting therapeutic relationships. This study shows that GPs with a history of traumatic experiences are able to address their patients’ adversities; however, they lack proper training and better patient care conditions, such as more time and more resources available for patient guidance.

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