If this you? You barge into a room without knocking. Without so much as glancing at the patient or their gathered family, you pull up to your computer and start spouting off questions without waiting for real answers. You scratch out a prescription while the patient starts telling you about their concern and leave the room before they’ve finished.
We’ve all seen at least one episode of “House.” It’s a weekly installment of Dr. House and how horribly abusive he is to his patients and everyone around him. If you work in a hospital or surgery center, you should regularly ask yourself, “Am I Dr. House?” If the above scenario sounded even remotely familiar, you just might be.
If so, you need to take a long, hard look at your bedside manner and see where you can improve. In essence, your patients are entrusting their lives to you. If you seem cold and distant, you’re not earning the trust needed for such an important relationship.
You must care
There is no way around this important step. You must care. If you don’t care, your bedside manner will never improve. It’s hard to be empathetic and gracious to someone in pain or in need if you don’t care about them. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible.
That doesn’t mean you have to take on everyone’s problems and be an emotional wreck by the end of your shift. It just means you have to be able to understand the patient in front of you. You have to care about the fact that they’re scared or that they’re in pain and you have to want to help them out of the situation.
You must take the time
Doctors see more patients now than ever before. That means doctors and nurses don’t have as much time to spend with each individual. But if you’re going to improve your bedside manner, you will need to find the time. The time to get all the facts before you rattle off a diagnosis. Time to understand exactly what the patient is trying to convey about their symptoms. Time to explain to the patient what and why you have prescribed.
By rushing through your interaction with a patient, you aren’t giving them the time they need to feel secure in what you’ve prescribed. It also gives them the feeling you don’t care. Neither leaves the patient with a good feeling about you as a health care provider.
You must listen
This is a direct descendent of taking time. It doesn’t just mean you have to physically spend more time in the room with a patient. You have to listen to them while you’re there. Even if they don’t know what they’re talking about and are wasting your time, listening to a patient puts them at ease and shows them you really care.
A final thought
This can be you. Knock first and enter with a smile and an outstretched hand. Make eye contact with the patient and their family. Turn and face the patient while they tell about their concerns and respond with kind reassurance. Do this, and no one will ever question your bedside manners again, much less call you Dr. House.
Thanks for reading,