More than ever before in modern history, politics are both polarizing and personal. Political views are now increasingly associated with subjects as personal as health care. With “fake news” and “alternative facts” now among common discourse, medical professionals should be prepared for this nuanced challenge.
Molly Imber, MD, an internist at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Lawrence, Kansas, explored this idea in an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Dr Imber suspects that — sooner or later — everyone in the healthcare field will have to think about how to approach the possibility of a politically divisive conversation with a patient.
“I think medical issues and political issues have become so closely linked over the past 5 or so years that it’s not possible to keep political discussions separate from medical care in many situations,” said Dr Imber in an interview with Medical Bag. “It’s difficult to have discussions that touch on politics without concerns that people will become angry or offended.”
In her examination room, Dr Imber hung a poster, saying, “People of Color, Immigrants, Refugees, Muslims, Women, LGBTQ, You, Us, All Are Welcome Here.” This statement is a subtle sign to patients about her political leanings.
However, navigating a political topic that comes up in the doctor’s office does not always have a straightforward solution. Whereas some physicians may choose to be transparent about their political beliefs, others may want to avoid it at all costs.
“I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules,” said Dr Imber, “other than to be professional and respectful as much as possible in all situations.”
Imber M. Politics in the exam room. Ann Intern Med. 2018;168(7):523.