Bedside medicine relies on practitioners’ quelling the fears that each patient brings into the exam room. The art of medicine is thus an empathetic bedside manner. Yet, as a Family Medicine study shows, medical students are trained to avoid emotion. Even today, though, empathy is essential to practicing medicine in patients’ best interests.
1. Prepare for Stress
By its nature, clinical training leads to exhaustion and loss of empathy, as shown by Bellini, Baime, and Shea. Accordingly, a 2011 study in Academic Medicine found high burnout rates among residents. So, the first step in addressing patients’ anxiety is to recognize your own. Pay attention to your body’s signals, from a fast heart rate to tense muscles or indigestion. Then, practice patience, and take deep breaths before talking or taking action.
2. Mind Your Manners
In a 2008 article from the New England Jounral of Medicine, Kahn argues for Etiquette-Based Medicine. Studies show that good manners in bedside medicine lead to greater empathy, curiosity, and compassion. To that end:
As a study in Hospitals and Health Networks shows, practitioners overestimate their politeness. So, err on the side of caution, and use these gestures to build a calming relationship.
3. Listen to Patients
Communication remains key in patient-centered care. Therefore Epstein argues for the core competencies of interpersonal communication and professionalism.
In the process, practitioners should rely upon open-ended questions and patient-centered methods. Smith et al. shows that the end result is a stronger foundation for collaborative bedside medicine.
When engaging with patients, put yourself in their shoes. Look at situations through their eyes, and beware your assumptions about their experiences. These biases may be conscious or unconscious, so it is important not to judge peoples’ behavior too harshly or too quickly. An International Journal of Caring Sciences article shows the results, with patients of empathetic doctors more likely to follow treatments, control conditions, and be satisfied with care.
5. Heal with Humor
While inquiring about patients’ lives is a good start, you can also use humor to defuse anxiety. Making jokes narrows interpersonal gaps by showing that both patient and practitioner are human. Furthermore, as Bennett notes, humor relieves tension by allowing for patients to express their frustrations. So, although jokes should be used with care, laughter is yet another therapeutic tool for addressing anxiety.
6. Show; Don’t Tell
Avoid telling patients to relax; instead, ask how to help. Then, demonstrate relaxation techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness meditation. As shown by Michiyo, Haruko, and Sayoko, the latter can be used to both decrease tension and improve physical symptoms. You can also create calming conditions by dimming lights, asking visitors to step out, or offering tea or a warm blanket.
7. Coordinate Care
Last, but not least, the many hand-offs of contemporary medicine make communication failures the cause of most errors. Such issues also fuel patients’ fears of this unfamiliar environment. Practitioners, however, can comfort patients by explaining each individual’s role on the healthcare team and each step in terms of the purpose behind it. In this way, coordination reassures patients at each step of care.
These methods are all oriented around the foundation of bedside medicine: empathy. Addressing patient concerns in this way ensures the success of treatment. So, you can use theses techniques to supplement support and ensure successful overall care.
Did you enjoy this article? Consider subscribing to receive similar ones.
Comments are closed.