Listening to women's narratives of breast cancer treatment : a feminist approach to patient satisfaction with physician-patient communication
Ellingson, Laura L.
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The purpose of this study was to examine the concept of patient satisfaction with physician-patient communication using a feminist grounded theory approach. Traditional health communication research has used a biomedical perspective and has relied on quantitative measures with the aim of predicting behavior, particularly patient compliance. Traditional research on physician-patient communication also has largely ignored gender and sex. This study used narratives to discover, in the participants’ own words, the patient’s conceptualization of patient satisfaction with physician-patient communication. Research participants in this study were women who had had breast cancer. My goal was to examine the data drawn from interviews in light of both traditional health communication research and feminist theory and to formulate an alternative view of patient satisfaction with physician-patient communication. Patients appear to conceptualize patient satisfaction as a process, as a matter of negotiating a dynamic interchange with their physicians. Three themes or processes of patient satisfaction with physician-patient communication were prominent in the data: respect, caring, and reassurance of expertise. In addition, there were two root themes, or underlying aspects of the interaction, that form the basis of the patient satisfaction with physician-patient communication: negotiation of power and control and the context of women’s lives. An issue emerged during data analysis that is integral to understanding the results of this study: gendered ways of knowing and talking by the research participants. Finally, the “unfolding” (as opposed to traditional linear plot) structure of the narratives allows women to contextualize their experiences and weave their emotions and relationships into their narratives.