View Full Version : Clinician's Illusion in 150 words or less?

05-22-15, 03:39 PM
Hi all,

There's a concept called the clinician's illusion; you can google it, but essentially it's this:

If I work in a hospital, I spend 90% of my time with the 1-5% most complex cases with the most negative outcomes. After a time (months-years) my experiences shape my beliefs to the point where at least unconciously I think of that 1-5% of the population as the norm.

To expand on that, say I spend the same amount of time with each patient during my shifts. The average stay in the unit is 2 weeks, 60% of people with the condition never set foot in hospital, and 1-2 people have been stuck in the system for several years. In the course of a year, I'll spend 26x the amount of time with the person who stays the whole year compared to any single patient who spends 2 weeks in my care.

I'm trying to think of a way to paint an accurate picture of the phenomenon without losing half my audience, and be able to point out the harm those changes in beliefs can have.

Example: If I work in the neo-natal unit, I will spend most of my days with the most complicated pregnancies, and the least healthy children. After a time this can make me afraid to have kids, despite rationally knowing that the vast majority of the time children are born without any issue.

I'm mostly interested in its effect on mental health; the belief that grows tends to be one that people can't recover, or that anyone with a mental health issue will be stuck in the revolving door.

Any ideas on an elegant way to summarize this phenomenon and draw attention to stigma? Bonus points if it doesn't make the reader feel attacked :D

05-23-15, 04:11 PM
This sounds a lot like an example of the availability heuristic ( in which we assume that the most vivid and accessible examples are the most common. See also this link ( ion&f=false)which relates to psychotherapy and psycopathology.