Editor’s note: “Everything We Say and Do” is an informational series developed by SHM’s Patient Experience Committee to provide readers with thoughtful and actionable communication tactics that have great potential to positively impact patients’ experience of care. Each article will focus on how the contributor applies one or more of the “key communication” tactics in practice to maintain provider accountability for “everything we say and do that affects our patients’ thoughts, feelings, and well-being.”
View a chart outlining key communication tactics
What I Say and Do
I sit down at patients’ eye level during patient visits and use a team brochure/personal business card for all new patients.
Why I Do It
One of the major concerns expressed by patients is the time spent with them by their provider. Sitting down at patients’ eye level lets them know that you are not in a hurry and you are there to give them whatever time they need. Sitting also causes your patients to perceive that you spent more time with them than if you spent the same amount of time while standing. This practice is not only advocated by patient-care consultants but is something I had reinforced during my firsthand experience as a patient several years ago when I had a surgical procedure. Every time the surgeon came into my hospital room, he sat in the chair, leisurely crossed his legs, and spoke to me from that position while writing in the chart. I knew exactly what he was doing, and it still made a difference to me! It put me more at ease and made me feel that he was there for me, ready to give me whatever time I needed and answer any questions that I had (and I had them). Sitting also puts you on an even level with your patients so they feel that you are talking with them, not down to them. This eases tension, adds comfort and trust to the situation, and is much more engaging.
How I Do It
After I greet patients, I look for a place to sit. If there is a chair, I pull it over to the bedside, sit in a relaxed manner, and continue the visit. If there is no chair in the room, I will sit on the windowsill, the bedside table (I have even been known to lower the bedside tray table and sit on the end with the support post if there is room on it), or whatever I can utilize to physically put myself on patients’ level. As a last resort, as long as there is not an isolatable infection, I will ask permission to sit on the edge of the bed. I make a point of telling them during this process that I am looking for a place to sit and talk so that they know this is my goal.
After the initial conversation and exam, if the patients are new to the service, I walk them through our team brochure and reiterate how we act as their PCP in the hospital and how we communicate with their PCP. I also make a point to show the team photo roster, which personalizes our team to patients, and say, “I also want you to have one of my baseball cards. We call our business cards ‘baseball cards’ because they have our pictures and a lot of ‘stats’ on them: our training, personal interests. That way, you know more about the person who is helping to take care of you.” I almost always see these cards out on patients’ trays or bedside tables on subsequent visits. Patients seem appreciative of the cards and the information. If I see another provider’s baseball card, I will ask patients a question about that provider as a way to continue to foster relations between our patients and our team. The more our patients can relate to us, the more they will trust us and the better their experience will be. TH
Dr. Sharp is a chief hospitalist with Sound Physicians at UF Health in Jacksonville, Fla.