Motivated by my excellent experience with the oculoplastics ophthalmologist in Melbourne a few weeks ago, I organised an observation session with another ophthalmologist, this time in Geelong, in the hopes of gleaning a few more practical pearls from a general eye specialist. Unfortunately the only thing I learned from my half day with this odd fellow was that I will not be referring many patients to him in the future.
Perhaps some patients assume it is acceptable for their medical specialist to be rudely abrupt and entirely disengaged because they are of such a higher intelligence and operate in a different ethereal dimension that the rest of us lowly plebs cannot comprehend. But don’t accept such substandard bedside manners! Not only do you want your healthcare professional to be good at the technical aspects of their field, you also deserve for them to genuinely care for you as a fellow human being and to show interest and concern in your welfare.
I’ll admit there are some patients who really milk this concern thing, and sometimes I get the feeling they just want attention (okay so your mother recently had a hip replacement which means you have to cook for her even when you’re tired and your husband’s snoring keeps you awake at night and you have really bad knees but your obesity means the hospital beds can’t support you for surgery but how does this relate to your eye test today).
And I’ll also admit there are some days where I’m just not in the mood to face humanity and all its eccentricities. There are some days when I encounter a patient who I just want to punch in the face but I don’t because I don’t want to go to jail and if they end up punching me back I’d probably die.
After watching this ophthal in all his obnoxious glory yesterday, I have considered what I think constitute good bedside manners for optometrists, if not all healthcare professionals.
- go and personally call in your patient from the waiting room, don’t send out a gopher to fetch them and lead them to your office
- greet your patient and introduce yourself by name; handshake if you like (I don’t usually because who knows where that patient’s hands have been)
- make a reasonable amount of eye contact when you talk to them and when they talk to you; you don’t need to stare them down during the conversation, there will be plenty of eye staring to come later in the exam
- ensure you understand the reason that they’re here to visit you; do they have a particular concern they want addressed by the end of the consult or are they just due for a general eye test?
- a brief explanation of what you’re about to do next will help build a rapport and make the patient feel more at ease (surprise! here’s a needle coming towards your eye!)
- explain your findings in layman’s terms, explain what needs to happen next, and leave space for the patient to absorb the information and to ask questions; can be very time consuming but your patients will love you for it (sometimes they will also just not listen and you need to explain it all again)
Being able to build a rapport with patients with a good bedside manner can be the make or break for an optometry business. If patients no like you, they no come back. If they no come back, you got no patients. If you got no patients… you gone.