How often did doctors treat you with courtesy and respect? 

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During this hospital stay, how often did doctors treat you with courtesy and respect?   Seriously?  Why is this question even necessary?  Obviously, because it doesn’t always happen.  Well, that’s interesting.  Maybe interesting isn’t the word.  Maybe the word is, “shocking.”  I can’t fathom treating any patient with anything less than courtesy and respect.   I just don’t get it.

I’m not accusing anyone of being rude to patients.

Remember, HCAHPS are not necessarily about actions.  They’re about perceptions.  So how could our interactions with patients leave them with the perception that we’re less than courteous and respectful?  That’s the question to ask.

I submit to you that there are things we’re doing that are perceived by patients as less than courteous and less than respectful.  I suggest you take inventory and make an effort to do the following with every patient every time.

  1. Knock on their door and give them the opportunity to say, “Come in…” or something else.  Wait 2-seconds and if there’s no answer, you can go in.
  2. Know the patients name before you enter the room.
  3. Make eye contact, smile, and shake hands with the patient and their visitors.
  4. Sit any time you can.
  5. Know relevant data before you walk in the room.
  6. Chit chat for a moment about something other than their illness.
  7. Offer the patient time to ask questions and make comments.
  8. Thank the patient and their family for trusting you with their life or the life of their loved one.

I know you’re busy and often tired.  However, I suggest that the busier or more tired you feel; the more intentional about these things you need to be.  That’s when it’s easier for all of us to forget to do them.

Many probably roll their eyes at the idea of being courteous and respectful toward patients that are rude and nasty to them.  To this I quote one of my residency attendings, Dr. Brad Graves.  Dr. Graves had a saying for dealing with people that are less than polite to you.  He used to say, “Kill them with kindness.”  It must have meant something as I remember him saying it almost 15 years later.   Always try to put yourself in your patient’s shoes.  Are you having a worse day than they are?  They’re likely in pain and scared.  It’s very difficult to be courteous and respectful when you’re hurting and terrified.  I’m not saying their behavior is acceptable but it still doesn’t give us the right to be anything less than courteous and respectful to every patient every time.

Dr. Graves taught me a lot in residency.  However, this may just have been the most important.

Joshua M. Rosenberg is vice-president of clinical operations, Apogee Physicians.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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