Within the current structure of our wonderful healthcare system, reports of physicians and other “gate-keepers” spending a mere 8-10 minutes with a patient is increasingly common. Our wonderful profession prides itself on the quantity of one-on-one time we have with our patients. In this abundance clinicians are often wallowing through this gluttonous amount face time and missing or omitting key information. Whether by complacency or conceit, all too often we leave our patients with information on the table.
Here are 5 phrases all clinicians must know to improve patient satisfaction and, equally important, patient outcomes.
“Hold on, let me get that straight.”
I absolutely love this phrase! Most of my co-workers and clinicians will be quick to tell you that in professional situations I pride myself on a confident and composed demeanor. The benefits of this are considerable. It provides them with a feeling of reassurance that “this guy knows what he is talking about and is going to take care of me.” The problem is that it also leads clients to believe that confidence is equivocal to telepathy. With this simple statement it illustrates both a keen interest in them and their condition, but it also clarifies the importance of their story and my need for more details. Showing a client that you need help to fully understand their needs better provides a foundation for better communication going forward.
“If its not a challenge its not helping”
This rings true for nearly all of my clients. Far too often I see clinicians failing to communicate the appropriate intensity of exercise to elicit demonstrable change. Keeping this simple phrase in your back pocket is a great generalization that casts a wide net over many conditions and patient demographics. Kids and the elderly alike can easily comprehend the message, and in regards to everyone in between, most conditions require some exercise fitting this description as part of their home exercise program.
“Discomfort, not damage.”
Essential for anyone dealing with patients in pain…and that is all of us. Borrowing from the works of folks like Adriaan Louw and the folks at the NOI Group, giving patients a clear understanding of pain science quickly abates fear avoidance beliefs that can easily derail even the most straightforward patient condition. This is my personal favorite iteration of any number of phrases conveying the same message. Pain and tissue damage are not direct correlates, and are often minimally associated if at all.
“Do you have any questions?”
Last but not least, wrapping up every session properly means tying loose ends. There is nothing more frustrating than having a client return for a follow-up visit rattling off all sorts of mis-information about their condition and doing their exercises dreadfully wrong. Ensuring that clients understand their injury and treatment is an essential component of effective and efficient patient care.
“I don’t know.”
Feared by every new grad, it is assumed that even the slightest utterance of these three words will send patients hobbling for the hills. Personally, I hold strongly to the viewpoint that having the humility to admit this fact will provide for one of the most impactful therapist-client moments. The moment I am referring to is the one where the therapist goes out of their way to come through for the patient. That may entail a bit more leg work, maybe a long night in front of a stack of old JOSPTs, or a referral to another provider. Whatever the process may be, patients remember your hard work and extra effort, and will reward you with future visits or some kind words to their friends and family.
So there you have it! 5 phrases all clinicians must know. Please comment below and let us know your thoughts. Did we leave any out?
Written by Stephen Stockhausen PT, DPT, OCS