I interviewed a patient the other day who was very anxious.
She spent the first few minutes of our conversation getting frustrated and worked up because she was “given the Medical Student” instead of the real doctor, and refused my request for her to answer questions, because we had the referral letter and that should be enough. It was not the best start for our conversation, and I was getting increasingly frustrated with her unwillingness to cooperate. While much of me wanted to be saying “Listen, you’re here now and I’m taking the history, so you better deal with it and get on with telling me what the problem is”, what I found my mouth saying was something entirely different:
“Thanks for coming in today, you’ve come to the right place, and we’re here to help you in the best way we can. I’ll have a look at your notes and then we’ll talk about how we can help you today.”
Praise God that it wasn’t what I was thinking that came out of my mouth. And after that first sentence, she was taken aback by the way things had turned. I wanted to understand her, and I was here to help, and I had acknowledged her taking the right step to showing up to her appointment (following previous DNAs – did not attend).
“You know the way your body works.”
“Is there anything else that I’ve missed that you think is important?”
“Okay let’s work on what we can deal with first.”
The way we phrase our conversations can have an amazing effect on the way we interact with patients. She wasn’t the most pleasant person to deal with at first, and I was frustrated that she didn’t want to talk to me, but she is a child of God, who Jesus died for, and who I’m no better than, so I thank God that this knowledge shaped the words that came out of my mouth.