Many would agree that etiquette is arguably one of the most vital factors in establishing a successful healthcare career. This field involves many personal interactions with a variety of people, and in a medical setting, healthcare professionals can easily set the tone for interactions with both patients and visitors alike.
Because they are constantly in contact with people, healthcare professionals are often evaluated based on the way they communicate, use body language, and their appearance. Studies have shown that among other factors, such as transparency and professionalism, bedside manner is one of the most valued elements by patients in a physician-patient relationship (Fletcher, K. E., Furney, & S. L., Stern, D. T., 2009). Not only does a healthcare provider’s bedside manner encompass their medical knowledge, it also demonstrates their ability to understand the patient while communicating concern.
In addition to building trust and a likeable reputation, a great bedside manner can even affect a patient’s health and recovery. Recent reviews of clinical trials have shown that a doctor’s bedside manner can greatly influence a patient’s health in a number of areas such as weight loss, managing pain, and lowering blood pressure. Additionally, researchers found that the impact of a good bedside manner was more effective in improving symptoms than reported effects of medications such as low-dose aspirin and cholesterol-lowering statins (Kelley et al., 2014).
When looking at how to improve your style of bedside manner, keep it simple by focusing on these five key elements: connect, listen, explain, ask, and re-connect (Britt, 2013). These may seem simple but are essential and often overlooked, which can result in a poor physician-patient relationship.
Connect by immediately acknowledging and engaging with your patient by establishing eye contact, using the patient’s name, and maintaining a friendly, helpful tone.
Actively listen to your patient and avoid interrupting them to ensure their concerns are heard and repeat information for accuracy.
Effectively explain what is going to happen and answer all questions with patience, speaking slowly and repeating as necessary, avoiding clinical jargon.
Ask them if all of their questions have been answered and concerns addressed, making sure they understand everything.
And Finally, re-connect by checking back frequently with patients, directing them where to go and what to expect next, and ending with a kind parting note (Britt, 2013).
The bottom line is: physician-patient relationships matter. By making good bedside manner a priority in your practice, you are not only building trust and positive rapport with your patients; you are also improving their overall physical health and recovery.