Health practitioners today are constantly learning better ways to treat their patients through access to the newest information available in the field of medical science. It may come as a surprise, however, that many of the improvements you can make to a patient’s recovery stem simply from the way in which you communicate with them, as well as how you communicate with the other health practitioners who treat them. In fact, doctors with a good bedside manner have traditionally been favourites with patients. But what does this entail exactly and how can you improve yours?
Body language and self-awareness
These days, doctors need to see more patients in a shorter space of time than ever before. Having to balance time restraints, as well as entering patient information electronically (which takes attention away from the patient) mean that it can be very difficult to do the basic things that make a patient feel comfortable. Take time to look your patient in the eye while they describe their symptoms and respond to them directly before turning to your computer.
Any patient will understand that you will need to make notes at some point, but a little attention at the beginning of an appointment can go a long way. Encourage your patients to ask questions and endeavour to answer them the best you can. Often the anxiety that goes with the uncertainty of undiagnosed illness can cause the patient to perceive more pain and discomfort than if they felt more comfortable emotionally. If you are empathetic and kind to a patient, they are more likely to share private details about their symptoms that will help you diagnose them correctly.
Respect your colleagues
It is extremely important to realise that the way you treat your colleagues (nurses and other doctors) can adversely affect your patients. A recent study showed that 75% of nurses would prefer not to query a script by a doctor that they think might be wrong if the doctor is perceived to be a “difficult” person (Mail & Guardian).
A study in the US found that approximately 500 people die in hospital every day due to mishaps and 80% of these are due to miscommunication (Wall Street Journal). This means that even at the best of times, human error and basic communication mishaps can cause serious harm to your patient and even result in death.
You should go out of your way to make sure that you don’t add to the problem by treating your colleagues badly. It is also important to note that it is healthy and entirely appropriate to admit that another health practitioner might have a better answer than you do. Patients will respect you for your honesty and will appreciate your referral.
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Louisa Theart writes for Skilled Migrant Jobs, a niche job board that helps skilled professionals, such as doctors and nurses, find jobs in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.