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By: Stephen O'Connor

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January 8th, 2016

The Best Medical Professionals are Exceptional Listeners

Practice Management | Healthcare Advice

Best-Medical-Professionals-Good-Listeners-Healthcare AdviceNot all patients can explain their situation very easily when they encounter a medical professional in the examination room. Communication problems can occur for a variety of reasons. The patient might be in pain or distress or is so filled with anxiety that it is hard to describe what is wrong. If they are not speaking in their native language, there could be some vocabulary or grammar issues that make it a bit harder for them to communicate the details of their malady. 

Regardless of the reason, it’s of paramount importance that doctors, nurses and other medical professionals cultivate their listening skills. They also must make sure that they are demonstrating empathy and compassion, as these go hand in hand with getting patients to open up and talk about themselves.

It’s clear that the best medical professionals are those who also happen to be exceptional listeners. Whether you naturally have good listening skills or need to spend some time and effort developing them, the outcome is that you will be much better at diagnosing and treating every patient you see.

Making Time in a Busy Day

Sometimes the problem with listening to patients has to do with scheduling. If your staff is stretched to its limits and the schedule is crammed with patients, there is little flexibility. This can lead to medical professionals trying to speed up each encounter. An unfortunate side effect is that they sometimes don’t get to hear everything the patient wants to say.

This is why so many medical organizations implement the latest in electronic health records software, often in combination with practice management software. Using these powerful software tools lets the staff work more quickly and efficiently, freeing up more time for the staff to really listen to each patient.

What’s more, your EHR software can listen to you thanks to speech recognition, which makes it easier to enter data into the patient’s record.

Anxious, Unhappy and Combative Patients

A patient who is in pain and worried about his or her health may be so unhappy or otherwise distressed that it is hard to talk with a nurse or doctor about what exactly the problem is.

Rather than escalating the situation, medical professionals can adopt a calmer and more soothing tone of voice (without going so far as to possibly sound patronizing). When you slow down and reassure a patient that you have time to take a breath and state the problem that brought them to you that day, you have a better chance of success.

If a patient grows belligerent or acts in a rude or threatening manner, all the listening skills in the world may be insufficient to handle the situation. The patient may be experiencing confusion from dementia or have a psychiatric issue that has not yet been diagnosed. Your team will have policies in place to determine when it is appropriate to ask a patient to leave or have a security guard intervene.

Cultivating and Improving Your Bedside Manner

Medical professionals will have variations in their bedside manner, with some being more naturally compassionate than others. Those who are of a more cool and clinical bent may profit by spending additional time developing their listening skills. Exceptional listeners can get to the heart of a patient’s problem more quickly and obtain a more comprehensive view of the situation.

Keep in mind that doctors, nurses and their assistants must make sure that they give themselves proper amounts of rest. Burning out from overwork not only tires the body and mind to the point where it’s difficult to give your best performance, it can also lead to compassion fatigue.

Everyone wants to be listened to and felt like they are understood. This is especially the case when it comes to patients in their encounters with medical professionals. Taking time to slow down will improve the situation immensely, and you can get more time each day when you implement a new efficient EHR and practice management solution.

Key Takeaway

  • Medical professionals vary in their natural abilities to listen to patients. You might need to cultivate your listening skills.
  • Better listening skills are intertwined with an excellent bedside manner.
  • Savvy medical organization managers and owners will give their team access to the latest software and technology tools to free up more time for patient encounters.
  • Medical professionals must give themselves periodic breaks and take vacations, lest their bedside manner and listening skills temporarily decline.

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About Stephen O'Connor

As a Director of Digital Marketing at Advanced Data Systems Corporation, Stephen spends his day's planning, writing, & designing resources for the modern healthcare professional. He has a strong affinity for snow crab legs, the ocean, and Rutgers Football.

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