Physician experience is associated with greater underestimation of patient pain

Talya Miron-shatz, Maayan Ormianer, Jonnina Rabinowitz, Yaniv Hanoch, Avi Tsafrir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: procedural pain is unique in that physicians simultaneously cause and assess it. Experienced male physicians are known to underestimate their female patients’ pain more than other physicians. However, it is unknown whether this also occurs in obstetrics/gynecology, where all patients are females. This study addresses the gap in literature on procedural pain assessment accuracy.
Methods: the present research compares paired pain evaluations from 20 obstetricians/gynecologists and their 92 female patients. 
Results: our data demonstrate that patients’ reported pain levels (M=5.53, SD=2.7) were significantly higher than their physicians’ pain estimates (M=4.89, SD=2.19), t=2.64, p < 0.005. The gap between patients’ and physicians’ pain estimates was greatest among physicians with the greatest procedural experience (M=1.49, SD = 2.24), f=5.72, p < 0.005. Male physicians underestimated their patients’ pain significantly more than female physicians do, t=2.27, p < 0.05. 
Conclusion: our results shed light on systematic underestimation of procedural pain and highlight the significance of experience and sex differences in pain evaluation.Practice Implications: Physicians’ experience influences their perception of patient pain while performing procedures. Experienced male physicians, even those who exclusively treat female patients, need to be aware of this ubiquitous bias in assessing their female patients’ procedural pain
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-409
Number of pages5
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number2
Early online date30 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Pain assessment
  • Empathy
  • Pain
  • Procedural
  • Gynecology


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