Written by Alyssa Walker

Do med students hug their patients?

A recent Medscape Medical News poll revealed different hugging habits among physicians, nurses, and medical students.

Nurses and Advanced Practice Nurses (APRNs) who responded to the poll reported the highest likelihood of hugging their patients, as compared to physicians--19 percent, compared to 13 percent of physicians.

A mere 5 percent of medical students who responded said that they hugged their patients. 

Forty-one percent of medical students reported that they "never" hug their patients. Twenty-one percent of physicians and 6 percent of nurses reported "never" hugging their patients.

The most popular answer? "Sometimes."

What predicts hugging? Gender and age. Fifteen percent of female physicians reported hugging their patients, compared to just 11 percent of male physicians.

This trend holds true in the "sometimes" category, too, with 72 percent of female physicians reporting that they "sometimes" hug their patients, compared to 61 percent of male physicians.

Medscape polled 3,072 practitioners--1,579 nurses/APRNs, 1,432 physicians, and 61 medical students.

Those most likely to get hugs? Longtime patients. 

Those least likely? Children.

In the article, a home health nurse commented, "I have discovered many times, the only time patients are touched is when someone is doing something to them. That is not therapeutic, nurturing touch that we all need. So, I tell all of my patients at the end of my visit that I have a rule, and that rule is I need to give them a hug. They absolutely light up!"


Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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