I recently wrote an article giving 3 reasons why any patient may not have liked their doctor. They included the physician being visibly in a hurry, appearing to brush off concerns, or giving a general sense of not caring. While no doctor deliberately sets out to do any of these things, complaints like these are all too common, unfortunately.
The degree to which the practice of good medicine is essentially also the practice of good communication, is vastly undertaught and underappreciated. It’s a social profession where you need to have interpersonal and people skills. Everybody, in any profession, can learn to improve their skills and constantly be on a journey to enhance them. This isn’t just important for the sake of being successful in ones’ career. It’s actually for the intrinsic satisfaction of any professional as well. Take a look around you — and bet your bottom dollar the best communicators are frequently the happiest in their jobs too. On that note, if we’re talking about physicians, here are 3 reasons why your patient may just have loved you:
1. You listened
This is such a simple thing, but I would advise any physician to just listen more than they talk. Studies show that doctors interrupt their patients only several seconds into them talking. Time is limited, and doctors need to focus — but there is an art to be being a calm listener in any circumstance. Always remember: if speaking is silver, then listening is gold. Especially for doctors.
2. Your demeanor and body language radiated compassion
A patient usually seeks the help of a doctor at a low point in their lives. That’s easy for a physician to forget during a typical busy and hectic day. Before entering a room and interacting with any patient, every doctor should take 2 to 3 deep breaths, reset, and tell themselves the following: 1. It’s a privilege to be a doctor; 2. the patient needs my help; 3. I can exhibit a caring attitude and really make a positive difference to this patient’s day.
3. You remembered the little things
The master communicators remember the little details and leave a lasting impression on people they interact with. Physicians who are amazing communicators will remember something their patient said about their child, sick parent, or where they went on vacation — and ask about it. This can take all of 10 seconds to do and is very much remembered and appreciated. It’s the same trait anybody who is a confident, successful conversationalist will have: A genuine interest in the other person.
We have very high standards in health care and ensure physicians reach a certain level of competency before they are allowed to practice medicine. It goes without saying that having a solid knowledge base and being clinically sound, are the most fundamental part of being a good doctor. But that’s not what patients and families typically appreciate the most — unless we are talking about a specialist type of surgery that only a handful of physicians can perform. Nor does this mean that medicine is a popularity contest — it isn’t. Working on being a great communicator and understanding what other human beings want and respond to is something every doctor should always be doing.
Suneel Dhand is an internal medicine physician, author, and an independent health care experience and communication consultant. He is co-founder, DocsDox.
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