The Patient story…

This is the first post in our new series on Communication.

One of the key components of clinical practice is successfully understanding the patient story.  This is the foundation of understanding the clinical, educational, and psychological needs of the patient.

Here are a few principles to help with effective communication and understanding the patient:

  1. Don’t Interupt

You may have heard the commonly quoted 23 seconds that it takes before a practitioner usually interrupts a patient’s story.  However, if you let your patient speak continuously, most will finish after 60 seconds and usually no more than 150 seconds.

  1. Concentrate

Listen to the patient’s words, observe their facial expressions, gesture and postures.  Most communication is non-verbal

  1. Listen

Listen to the tone of voice.   You may pick up on struggles with anger or depression.  You may need to listen beyond the tone of voice in order to listen effectively.

  1. Don’t speak

Offering your own thoughts and opinions before the other person has properly expressed theirs we run the risk of mentally shutting down from the conversation and ignoring valuable new information and insights.

Don’t be thinking about what you want to say, keep listening.  If you find you’ve interrupted stop yourself and encourage the patient to continue.

  1. Maintain interest

  2. Show interest

Maintain eye contact, have open postures and appropriate facial expressions.  Reflecting back the patient’s words and feelings can demonstrate you have listened well.

Listening well is a skill that needs to be learned.  Practice, practice, practice.

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