Exploring the subjective burden of confidentiality among physicians in Norway
Løvseth Lise Tevik, Leiulfsrud Håkon
DOI: 10.4236/health.2011.33034   PDF    HTML     4,084 Downloads   7,978 Views   Citations


Background: Concern about protecting patient privacy is proposed to be a barrier for physic- cians to talk about emotional distress from their professional experiences. This makes it difficult for many physicians to utilize and fully benefit from different network of social support. The subjective burden of confidentiality is reported to be associated with physician’s health and wellbeing. Aims: To gain knowledge about fac- tors in the in personal and professional sphere that can be associated with the subjective bur- den of confidentiality. Methods: Qualitative semi- structured interviews with 14 general practi- tioners and hospital physicians in Norway. Ex- amination of transcribed verbatim interviews using qualitative content analysis. Results: The subjective burden of confidentiality is likely linked with factors such as perception of pro- fessional role, social support from colleagues, partners and friends; size of patient population, organizational factors and work environment, and the overlap between personal and profess- sional relationships. Conclusions: Addressing the interaction of emotional demands and pa- tient confidentiality is important to study suc- cessful coping with distress from physician’s professional experiences.

Share and Cite:

Tevik, L. and Håkon, L. (2011) Exploring the subjective burden of confidentiality among physicians in Norway. Health, 3, 179-185. doi: 10.4236/health.2011.33034.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Baverstock A, Finlay F. What can we learn from the experiences of consultants around the time of a child’s death? Child Care Health Dev 2008; 34 (6):732-9. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2214.2008.00875.x
[2] Mandell F, Mcclain M, Reece RM. Sudden and Unex- pected Death - the Pediatricians Response. Am J Dis Child 1987; 141 (7):748-50.
[3] Vegni E, Mauri E, Moja EA. Stories from doctors of patients with pain. A qualitative research on the physic- cians’ perspective. Support Care Cancer 2005; 13 (1): 18-25. doi:10.1007/s00520-004-0714-2
[4] Shanafelt T, Adjei A, Meyskens FL. When your favorite patient relapses: Physician grief and well-being in the practice of oncology. J Clin Oncol 2003; 21 (13):2616-9. doi:10.1200/JCO.2003.06.075
[5] Elder N, Ricer R, Tobias B. How respected family physic- cians manage difficult patient encounters. J Am Board Fam Med 2006; 19 (6):533-41. doi:10.3122/jabfm.19.6.533
[6] Hobfoll SE. Conservation of Resources - A New Attempt at Conceptualizing Stress. Am Psychol 1989; 44 (3): 513- 24. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.44.3.513
[7] Karasek R, Theorell T. Healthy work. Stress, productivity, and the reconstruction of working life. New York: Basic Books 1990.
[8] Wallace JE, Lemaire J. On physician well being - You’ll get by with a little help from your friends. Soc Sci Med 2007; 64 (12):2565-77. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.03.016
[9] Cohen S, Syme SL. Social support and health. Orlando, Fla: Academic Press 1985.
[10] Kay M, Mitchell G, Clavarino A, et al. Doctors as pa- tients: a systematic review of doctors’ health access and the barriers they experience. Br J Gen Pract 2008; 58 (552): 501-8. doi:10.3399/bjgp08X319486
[11] Davidson SK, Schattner PL. Doctors’ health-seeking be- haviour: a questionnaire survey. Med J Aust 2003; 179 (6):302-5.
[12] Engelskj?n N. The tradition of the physician’s professional ethics. From Hippocrates to the ethical rules of physic- cians of the Norwegian medical association. In: Olsen BO, Larsen ?, eds. The Shaping of a profession. Physi- cians in Norway, past and present. Canton, Mass: Sci- ence History Publications 1996:507-18.
[13] ?yen E. Trend Report 1. The Social Functions of Confi- dentiality. Current Sociol 1982; 30 (2):1-37.
[14] L?vseth LT, Aasland OG. Confidentiality as a Barrier to Social Support: A Cross-Sectional Study of Norwegian Emergency and Human Service Workers. Int J Stress Manage 2010; 17 (3):214-31. doi:10.1037/a0018904
[15] L?vseth LT, Aasland OG, Fridner A, et al. Confidential- ity and Physicians’ Health. A Cross-sectional Study of University Hospital Physicians in Four European Cities (the HOUPE-study). J Occup Health 2010; 52 (5): 263- 71. doi:10.1539/joh.L10014
[16] Kvale S. The Qualitative Research Interview - A Phe- nomenological and A Hermeneutical Mode of Under- standing. J Phenomenol Psychol 1983; 14 (2):171-96. doi:10.1163/156916283X00090
[17] Miles MB, Huberman AM. Qualitative data analysis. An expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage 1994.
[18] Smith JA. Qualitative psychology. A practical guide to research methods. London: Sage 2008.
[19] Lako CJ, Lindenthal JJ. The Management of Confidenti- ality in General Medical-Practice - A Comparative-Study in the USA and the Netherlands. Soc Sci Med 1991; 32 (2):153-7. doi:10.1016/0277-9536(91)90055-H
[20] Elger BS. Factors influencing attitudes towards medical confidentiality among Swiss physicians. J Med Ethics 2009; 35 (8):517-24. doi:10.1136/jme.2009.029546
[21] Voltmer E, Kieschke U, Spahn C. Work-related behave- iour and experience patterns of physicians compared to other professions. Swiss Medical Weekly 2007; 137 (31-32):448-53.
[22] Aase M, Nordrehaug JE, Malterud K. "If you cannot tolerate that risk, you should never become a physician’’: a qualitative study about existential experiences among physicians. J Med Ethics 2008; 34 (11):767-71. doi:10.1136/jme.2007.023275
[23] Duval G, Clarridge B, Gensler G, et al. A national survey of US Internists’ experiences with ethical dilemmas and ethics consultation. J Gen Intern Med 2004; 19 (3): 251-8. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2004.21238.x
[24] Hurst SA, Perrier A, Pegoraro R, et al. Ethical difficult- ties in clinical practice: experiences of European doctors. J Med Ethics 2007; 33 (1):51-7. doi:10.1136/jme.2005.014266
[25] Larsson J, Rosenqvist U, Holmstrom I. Enjoying work or burdened by it? How anaesthetists experience and handle difficulties at work: a qualitative study. Br J Anaesth 2007; 99 (4):493-9. doi:10.1093/bja/aem233
[26] Thoits PA. Social support as coping assistance. J Consult Clin Psychol 1986; 54 (4):416-23. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.54.4.416
[27] Farber NJ, Novack DH, Silverstein J, et al. Physicians’ experiences with patients who transgress boundaries. J Gen Intern Med 2000; 15 (11):770-5. doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.2000.90734.x
[28] Spickard WA, Swiggart WH, Manley GT, et al. A con- tinuing medical education approach to improve sexual boundaries of physicians. Bull Menninger Clin 2008; 72 (1):38-53. doi:10.1521/bumc.2008.72.1.38
[29] Rourke JTB, Smith LFP, Brown JB. Patients, Friends, and Relationship Boundaries. Can Fam Physician 1993; 39:2557-2564.
[30] Miedema B, Easley J, Fortin P, et al. Crossing boundaries Family physicians’ struggles to protect their private lives. Can Fam Physician 2009; 55 (3):286-287.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.