Heartlift patients? An interview-based study of GP trainers and the impact of `patients they like'

Margaret O'Riordan, John Skelton, Anne de la Croix

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background. The concept of the `heartsink patient' is well known and much used when talking about general practice. The opposite of this type of patient, however, has been little explored. Objective. To identify patient characteristics valued by GPs. Methods. Structured interview to collect narratives from GPs of individual patients, analysed qualitatively through thematic analysis and word frequency. Setting. Primary Care in Ireland. Participants. GP trainers. Main outcome measures. Emergent themes from four lead questions: Tell me about a patient you like, Tell me about the patient's personality, What have you learned about yourself as a GP?, What is different about being a GP as opposed to any other kind of doctor? In addition, a corpus linguistic analysis of word frequencies disclosed further themes, not identifiable on the surface of discourse. Results. Ten themes were identified: GPs valued patients who were likeable, a challenge, involved them in negotiation of the doctor-patient relationship, were interesting or virtuous and had a positive effect. GPs valued their profession in that they were facilitators, gave and elicited loyalty, formed personal attachments and had a different perspective. Conclusions. `Heartlift patients' may be a robust concept, to counterbalance heartsink patients. Data collected are suitable for training, and could help GPs enhance a sense of vocation.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)349-354
Number of pages6
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2008

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