Experience. Education. Location. These are all important things people look for when choosing a doctor. But perhaps the most important characteristic potential patients use to judge a new physician on is their bedside manner. But what exactly is bedside manner and what are the do’s and don’ts that both doctors and patients should consider? Let’s take a look!
What is Bedside Manner?
Before we can discuss the do’s and don’ts of bedside manner, it’s important to understand exactly what it is. There’s no specific definition of bedside manner. But the concept revolves around the doctor’s treatment of patients. Several aspects fall under this umbrella including:
- Tone of voice
- Time spent with the patient
- Examination protocol
Bedside manner describes a doctor’s overall attitude and approach toward patients.
What to Look for as a Patient
When choosing a doctor, here are a few things to keep in mind.
How the doctor entered the room? Do they seem rushed and inpatient or calm and pleasant? The way your doctor greets you is part of their bedside manner. You should feel comfortable, welcomed, and at ease. Most doctors will shake your hand, refer to you by name, and ask a few conversational questions — things about your family and job are common. If your doctor is overly interested in your personal life or engages in uncomfortable behavior, this is a sign of inappropriate bedside manner. Things like giving you a hug, lingering too closely during your physical exam, or asking prying or overly personal questions unrelated to your condition or health are all signs that your doctor is crossing the line.
Communication is key in any relationship, and the doctor-patient relationship is no different. Does your doctor explain things in simple terms that you can understand? Do they welcome your questions and answer them thoroughly? If you suffer from a chronic condition or one that requires testing and several follow-up visits, your doctor should explain every step of the process. They should also provide any names, phone numbers, and other information about other doctors they’re referring you to. You should also be an active participant in the decision-making process. Before your doctor suggest any treatment options, diagnostic testing or procedures, make sure you feel comfortable and understand exactly what’s happening.
Speaking clearly to you isn’t the only skill your physician needs. They should also be an active listener. Does your doctor encourage you to ask questions? Do they listen carefully to your symptoms and concerns? Getting a full, thorough picture of your condition is the only way a doctor can properly diagnose you and offer treatment options. If you feel rushed or dismissed, it might be time for a new doctor.
Don’t Feel Bad Switching Doctors
Sometimes, patients feel a sort of loyalty toward their doctors. If you’ve been seeing your primary care physician for years but feel like they’re no longer giving you the care you need, it’s your right to change. Another thing some patients are resistant to do is get a second opinion. Even the best doctors make mistakes. If you feel your doctor has misdiagnosed you or isn’t treating your condition with the seriousness it deserves, it’s okay to get a second opinion. Any professional will encourage you to and not treat you any differently going forward.
What to Remember as a Doctor
If you’re a doctor trying to fine-tune your bedside manner, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Offer Individualized Care
Every patient is unique and requires individualized care. While you can’t remember every single patient’s entire medical history, you should know your patients well. Greet them by name and ask how they’re feeling. If they’re there for a follow-up visit, start by asking about any updates — has their condition improved or worsened? Showing your patients that you care enough to remember them goes a long way when it comes to bedside manner. Patients should feel comfortable in your office. This helps them be more open and honest about what’s bothering them, leading to a more accurate diagnosis.
Don’t Judge or Discriminate
A patient should never feel uncomfortable in your presence. Regardless of their condition, ethnic background, or diagnosis, you need to treat every patient with respect and professionalism. As a doctor, you can’t discriminate against a patient based on sex, ethnicity, or age. If your office welcomes non-native speaking patients, there are a few things you can do to make them more comfortable. Hire a bilingual nursing staff or learn a second language yourself. New technology like video remote interpreting makes communicating between patients and doctors simple — even beyond language barriers. You can learn more here about how this type of technology works to support the doctor-patient relationship.
Make Sure the Appointment is Patient-Centered
As a doctor, it’s important to remember that the appointment is about your patient, not you. Avoid talking about yourself, your problems, or taking attention away from the patient during their visit. It’s okay for you to socialize with your patient briefly and answer questions they pose, but remember to always direct the conversation back to the patient. Another fault that many doctors make in today’s technological world, is focusing on the computer rather than the individual. Most medical documents are now digital. Doctors carry laptops and tablets that help track patient information, vitals, and other data. Don’t stare into your computer without looking at the patient. Take a break from typing every once in a while to make eye contact. This reminds the patient that you care and they’re not just another number.
Most people stay with the same doctor for years. Once they find someone they like and feel comfortable with, there’s no need to switch. But a few cases of poor bedside manner is all it takes to change a patient’s mind. As a patient, you’re entitled to the best care possible. And as a doctor, you need to make your patients feel comfortable and respected. The doctor-patient relationship is a sacred one and bedside manner is a vital component.
Article Submitted By Community Writer