Original Article | Open Access
Fibromyalgia and the Therapeutic Relationship: Where Uncertainty Meets Attitude
BACKGROUND: Fibromyalgia remains underdiagnosed and suboptimally treated even though it affects an estimated 3.3% of Canadians. The present study examines knowledge and attitudinal challenges affecting optimal care.METHODS: A mixed-methods approach was employed. Discussion groups, semistructured interviews and a quantitative online survey (five-point scale) were conducted (June 2007 to January 2008). Participants included 189 general practitioners (GPs) and 139 specialists (anesthesiologists, neurologists, physiatrists, psychiatrists and rheumatologists) distributed across Canada. Participants included 18 patients to enrich the scope of the findings.RESULTS: GPs reported insufficient knowledge and skill in diagnosing fibromyalgia, with not all believing it to be a diagnosable condition (mean 3.74/5). Twenty-three per cent of GPs and 12% of specialists characterized fibromyalgia patients as malingerers. They further reported a lack of knowledge and skill in treating fibromyalgia (mean 2.73/5), including the pain, sleep disorders and mood disorders related to the condition (mean 3.32/5). Specialists shared these challenges, although to a lesser degree – “We are not trained to treat distress and suffering” (Specialist). Attitudinal issues centred around frustration (mean 3.91/5) and negative profiling of fibromyalgia patients (mean 3.06/5 and 1.99/5).CONCLUSIONS: Findings revealed the presence of GP attitudinal and confidence challenges in caring for fibromyalgia patients. As care of fibromyalgia patients moves to general practices, these fundamental competencies must be addressed to assure that all patients receive the quality of care necessary to manage their disease and to empower physicians to be more professionally effective. As stated by one patient, “Why are we being penalized for having this disability?”
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