How Important are Bedside Manners?
Physicians are medical experts, for sure, but there’s more to being an excellent doctor than making the correct diagnosis time after time. How physicians treat and interact with the patients they serve is just as important as the medical treatment they provide.
In fact, you can argue that having an excellent bedside manner plays a pivotal role in ensuring that patients get the best medical care possible. Take a look at how bedside manners can cement the physician-patient relationship and improve the overall experience.
Bedside manner describes how a physician or medical care provider interacts with and approaches a patient. Some doctors are notorious for not having a good bedside manner. They might wave off patient’s concerns or act like they are in a rush whenever they see patients.
Doctors with good bedside manners take the time to get to know their patients. The doctors might ask patients about their lives and show a genuine interest in the patients’ wellbeing. Taking that extra time to connect with patients allows doctors with a good bedside manner to build trust.
Patients are more likely to open up to doctors when they feel that the doctor will listen to their concerns or take them seriously. Trusting patients are also more likely to follow the medical advice they get from doctors.
Build Compassion for Your Patients
Having a good bedside manner helps you see what life is like for your patients. When you take the time to really listen to their problems and hear what they’re telling you, you’ll be better able to empathize with them.
When a doctor has empathy or compassion for their patients, they’re better able to see their patients as living, breathing humans. That’s why compassion matters for doctors. It humanizes the medical experience. It lets doctors share in some of the patient’s suffering, for sure. But it also gives doctors a chance to genuinely rejoice and feel relieved when patients do well.
Improve Patient Outcomes
Better bedside manners often leads to better patient outcomes, for several reasons. When doctors demonstrate compassion to patients, patients are more likely to share their concerns. A doctor who has a clearer picture of what’s going on with a patient can make a more accurate diagnosis.
Patients who trust their doctors are more likely to follow through on any treatment plans created. They’re more likely to take prescribed medications and to return for follow-up care.
Boost Your Career
Developing an excellent bedside manner can do wonders for a doctor’s career. When a physician treats their patients with compassion and shows genuine care and interest in their patients, they become the in-demand doctor.
Being in-demand leads to more patients and can also help you move up the career ladder, advancing to more challenging and fulfilling roles.
How to Improve Your Bedside Manner
More and more medical schools are focusing on training students to develop their bedside manner, along with medical skills. That’s a great thing. But if your school didn’t focus on bedside manner or your patients have noted that yours is lacking, all isn’t lost.
Taking a few simple steps can help you get a better bedside manner and improve your patient rapport.
- Always introduce yourself. At the start of every encounter, take a few minutes to introduce yourself by telling the patient your name and what your role is in their care. Also, ask their name or how they like to be called. If other members of the care team will work with the patient, too, inform the patient of that, so that they know what’s going on.
- Pay attention to body language. Look at the patient and how they’re sitting or lying down. Do they have their arms crossed or are they refusing to look at you? Do they seem nervous or scared? Take a few minutes to check in with them based on what you observe.
- Keep things simple. Whenever possible, use the simplest terms to describe things to your patients or when asking questions. Ask them if pain moves, rather than radiates, for example. If you have to use a jargon-y term, take the time to explain what it means. Check in with your patient throughout the encounter to make sure they understand you.
- Listen and repeat. Try repeating what your patients tell you. Doing so verifies that you have the details correct and shows the patient you’re listening. It also gives them the chance to correct any mistakes.
Your success as a physician, and your patients’ success, depends on the strength of your bedside manner. Practicing being compassionate and really seeing and listening to your patients can take you far in your medical career.