Bedside manner isn’t just for hospitals — it has to do with the general relationship between a doctor and their patients, as well as treatment. In fact, people expect more proficient bedside manner when it comes to their primary care physicians and the offices they frequent, because they have gotten to know these doctors, and hopefully vice versa. So is there a way for these smaller offices to build upon their bedside manner? Of course! We’ve come up with a few:
This is going to be your biggest and most easily obtained way to build your bedside manner, because empathy can take as little as sixty seconds. When we say “empathy” we mean the ability to relate to another’s thoughts, feelings, and circumstances — literally, “Oh, I feel you” or “I understand you.” It goes such a long way, and is worth every moment you spend using it. It doesn’t make the appointments any longer than they “need” to be, but rather makes lasting impressions on you as a caregiver, and will bring you closer to understanding your patient as a whole. Health is more than just physical, it’s also emotional and mental, so it’s important that you can connect with them at least a little bit.
Now, that doesn’t mean be blunt without any kind of buffer or filter over what you say. While it might work with some patients, a majority would rather have a softer conversation. What we mean by transparent is tell them what they need to know, when they want to know it. Unless you truly do not know the answer to their questions (in which case, be honest and try to find the answer ASAP), keep your responses to the point, and not vague.
It’s weird to think, but a lot of people see doctors as these otherworldly beings that are just plain hard to talk to. You don’t have to reveal your whole life story, but try to make yourself relatable to the patients — this goes hand in hand with the idea of empathy. If you can find common ground that both of you can stand on, then getting them to open up will be that much easier, as well as gain their trust.
Let them take control of the conversation.
Your job is to sit and listen to what the patient has to say, and listen to their concerns as well as their complaints. You can steer the conversation in the right direction, but the more you hear from the patient, the better they’re going to feel about your decision as a physician.
Empathy is going to be your biggest and best friend when it comes to bedside manner, so remember to put yourself out there, listen, and relate! You’ll see that your patients have a higher satisfaction level, and they’ll keep coming back!