Purpose: Humanism is fundamental to excellent patient care and is therefore an essential concept for physicians to teach to learners. However, the factors that help attending physicians to maintain their own humanistic attitudes over time are not well understood. The authors attempted to identify attitudes and habits that highly humanistic physicians perceive allow them to sustain their humanistic approach to patient care.
Method: In 2011, the authors polled internal medicine residents at the University of Pennsylvania to identify attending physicians who exemplified humanistic patient care. In this cross-sectional, qualitative study, the authors used a semistructured script to interview the identified attending physicians to determine attitudes and habits that they believed contribute to their sustenance of humanistic patient care.
Results: Attitudes for sustaining humanism in this cohort of humanistic physicians included humility, curiosity, and a desire to live up to a standard of behavior. Many of the physicians deliberately worked at maintaining their humanistic attitudes. Habits that humanistic physicians engaged in to sustain their humanism included self-reflection, connecting with patients, teaching and role modeling, and achieving work–life balance. Physicians believed that treating their patients humanistically serves to prevent burnout in themselves.
Conclusions: Identification of factors that highly humanistic attending physicians perceive help them to sustain a humanistic outlook over time may inform the design of programs to develop and sustain humanism in teaching faculty.