Sometimes, it is forgotten that doctors too are human beings. Human beings that can blurt out things in the spur of the moment only to realise later that they should not have said what they said.

Whether these are words of expression or bad news that doctors have to convey, these are not the words that patients want to hear from their doctors. In other words, it is hard for doctors to take back something bad that they have said, which is why they should be careful with the words that they use when talking to patients.

A little restraint is what is needed from doctors to avoid conflict with their patients.

Case of mistaken identity

“You are way too old to be coming with your mother/father/brother/sister.”

Doctors should remember the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” when addressing their patient’s companion to their consultation room. In this case, it can be a huge embarrassment when doctors mistake their patients’ companions to be either their mother or father when it’s actually their spouse. It is even worse if they let their thoughts known out loud to the patients.

Actions do count

There have been times when patients have been surprised and frustrated at the way their doctors behave in front of them. Being distracted and not caring about what their patients are saying are some examples of doctors’ behaviour that has left patients exasperated with them.

Words that hurt

“It’s because you are getting older.

At times, doctors might find themselves thinking out loud – without’ filtering’ first. What they say might be true; but patients may take it the wrong way.

The best way is to say it tactfully – to avoid offending the patients. (Remember, age is a sensitive topic, especially when it comes to women.)

What patients do not like to hear

“Why did you come to see me?”
“I can’t help you anymore.”
“Please find another doctor.”
“Hmm… I have no idea what’s wrong with you.”

There are times when doctors realise that the patient in front of them is not mentally sane and that the problem lies in their head. It is not easy to put these thoughts across to the patient, who might just lose it if doctors tell them what they really think. In any case, there are better ways for doctors to express what they are thinking about their patients’ situation.

Discouraging beliefs and other health practices

Many patients have as much faith in their doctors as they have in their faith and beliefs. Even though some doctors might think it is futile to engage in belief systems or other harmless health practices, it is best to let patients do what they want to do or where they want to turn to for their wellbeing.

Words that are too difficult to say

In their profession, doctors are put in situations where they find it difficult to say what they have to. When doctors have to deliver bad news regarding a patient’s health situation, it is never an easy situation to be in. It does not matter how these words are spoken by the doctor, a bad lab result is still bad news to the patient.

Reality hits hard when words are put into facts

Reality always hits hard on patients when it is their doctors bringing them the facts on a platter. Doctors find themselves frustrated at times with their patients – especially when the solution is looking at them in the face.

As it is when doctors become exasperated, they let out the facts straight to their patients. On their part, patients end up getting shocked or surprised by their doctor’s candidness.

“If you want to get better – stop smoking.”
“Losing weight is the only way out.”
“Stop eating junk food and start eating healthy.”
“Try exercising more.”
“If you continue this way, you will end up dead sooner than expected.”

There is always another way

As tiring and frustrated doctors might get with their patients, the best way to start out in the consultation room is to be patient and take a little more time in getting to know their patients. Effort is needed on the doctor’s part to be genuinely interested in what the patient is saying and what the patient is facing when it comes to their medical issues. It is all about the way doctors talk and behave with their patients. MIMS

Read more:
The importance of word choices in healthcare – Part 1
The importance of word choices in healthcare – Part 2
4 communication errors that should be avoided in any medical practice