By Jennifer Larson, contributor Feb 18, 2020
Has good bedside manner become a lost art? Have the demands of modern
medicine made it difficult for young physicians to master the most basic
Introducing themselves to patients
Explaining their role
Sitting down with the patient for conversation
Asking open-ended questions, like “How are you?”
A 2013 study
by Johns Hopkins University indicated new physicians may need some additional
training in this area, at least.
The researchers observed first-year internal medicine interns as they
interacted with patients, to see if they employed five strategies of
While the young doctors used some strategies more than others, the
researchers found that they used all five strategies just 4 percent of the time
. The study authors noted that the interns
were probably not being rude intentionally, but they may have overlooked the
need to build a connection with the patient when concentrating on the medical
situation at hand.
Yet, such inefficient communication and lack of connection can have consequences.Connect with locum tenens job
opportunities across the U.S.
The importance of good bedside
Whether a new physician learns from a mentor, from medical school, or
just from experience, effective bedside manner is a key part of his or her job
as a physician. It can help establish connections with patients that can lead
to better patient compliance and better patient outcomes.
“Bedside manner is crucial to the doctor–patient relationship and goes
a long way to help successful healing,” said Clifford Jeng, MD, medical director
of The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy Medical Center in
have shown that a physician’s bedside manner can make significant differences
in a patient’s health, helping them to lose weight, lower their blood pressure,
and even manage pain. Patient satisfaction scores are also directly affected by
whether or not the person feels a connection to their physician.
No matter what your age or experience level in medicine, it may help to
review your bedside approach to ensure you are making the most of every patient
encounter.Start from the beginning
You know that old adage, that you only get one chance to make a first
impression? The moment you walk through the door, the patient is assessing you.
“A welcoming smile along with a simple ‘Good morning,’ can go a long
way toward building a foundation of mutual respect,” said John-Paul H. Rue, MD,
orthopedic sports medicine surgeon with Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
If you seem distant or remote, even if you’re just thinking about
something, your patient will pick up on that. If you remain standing, rather
than sitting down, your patient may feel at a disadvantage. And it could put a
damper on your relationship.
“There could be some very correctable things that doctors don’t even
know they’re doing,” said Jason Atienza, MD, Orlando Health’s corporate medical
director of rehabilitation medicine.Understand the patient’s perspective
Physicians at Orlando Health can participate in a program designed to
help them assess and improve their bedside manner, and many have found it
Atienza described one scenario in which a participating physician
received negative feedback from patients because he tended to sit with his arms
crossed. He was surprised to learn that people didn’t respond favorably to him
because he was concentrating on how to help them and didn’t realize how his
presentation affected them. A couple of simple changes later, the physician’s
patient experience scores improved dramatically.
What if you’re not sure how you come across to a patient?
Atienza suggests having someone video you during a patient encounter.
“Talk about an eye opener, when you see yourself, on camera,” he said.Five evidence-based tips for
connecting with patients
by Donna M. Zulman, MD, MS, and colleagues, published in
uncovered evidence-based practices that promote clinician presence during
patient encounters, using a systematic review of the literature.
The authors issued five recommendations to promote better connections
between physician and patients:
1. Prepare with intention. Take a few moments in
advance to get ready to see your patient.
Connect With a Recruiter Now
2. Listen completely and intently. Use your body to
convey that you’re paying close attention, by sitting down, unfolding your arms
and making eye contact.
3. Agree on what matters most. Together, you and
your patients can develop shared priorities.
4. Connect with your patient’s story. Consider your
patient’s perspective and how their personal circumstances affect their health.
5. Explore emotional cues. Are you watching for the
unspoken signs that give insight into how your patient is feeling? Notice and
validate your patient’s emotions.
“It’s actually not that difficult,” said Nicholas Jones, MD, a plastic surgeon who practices in Atlanta.
“Just put yourself in your patient’s shoes. How would you like to be treated?
Remembering that the patients are in a very vulnerable position.”
Advice for young physicians, and others who need a refresher
Every clinician can have a bad day—or just a really hectic day. Those
are the times when it can be hard to remember all the small details that help
you be truly patient-centered.
“I tell my students that even on your busiest day, when you are not
happy or you are burnt out, that is the day when your bedside manners are at
test,” said Atif Zafar, MD, medical director of the UNM Stroke Program and
author of Why Doctors Need to Be Leaders.
It's about cultivating empathy for your patients and approaching them with
the genuine intention to serve them, said Zafar. Imagine the kind of care that you’d
want your mother, father, or other family member to get, and strive to provide
that kind of service.
Empathy really is key, agreed Rue.
“There are many times when a patient will come to see me with a
concern, but really what they are looking for is someone to hear them out and
listen to their concerns,” Rue said. ‘Oftentimes, even without solving the
problem, just offering an empathetic ear to listen and provide some reassurance
is all that is needed.”
You may feel rushed, or you may feel you don’t have time. But a good
bedside manner is too important to abandon striving toward. Maintaining good
physician–patient relationships is not only important for your patients’ health;
it also contributes to your practice’s bottom line.
“You can be flawless with the ‘book’ part of medicine, making the right
diagnosis and treatment, but if the patient can’t relate to you and doesn’t
trust you, they may go looking for another doctor,” said Jeng.
Patient Trust with Effective Doctor–Patient Communication
Average Time Doctors Spend with Patients
STAFF CARE has locum tenens
jobs in a variety of specialties that can advance your medical career,
including part-time and full-time assignments.