It sounds like something you already know, but do you practice it daily? Listening, I mean. Really listening to your patients and processing what they’re telling you. The simple process of listening to them can make your job easier, help them heal faster and prevent potentially dangerous errors.
Case in point: A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law went to the urgent-care facility with a red, swollen eye. (Her eye doctor was in Antarctica on vacation—yes, in December.) The physician diagnosed an eye infection and began to write her a prescription for antibiotics.
When he asked if she had any allergies to medications, my father-in-law told him yes, she was allergic to sulfa. He gave her the prescription and sent them on their way.
A few days later, not only was the eye no better, but the problem had spread to her other eye as well. Her vision was blurry and she was even more uncomfortable, so this time she decided to visit the doctor who was covering for her vacationing eye doctor.
When she explained about the antibiotics, the doctor said, “Well, no wonder—those meds have sulfa in them!” She left with a new prescription for non-sulfa-containing antibiotics, and both eyes healed within a few days.
So what was the problem here? Seems to me the urgent-care doc wasn’t listening or paying attention too carefully to the answer to his allergy question. (Either that or he didn’t realize the meds would have sulfa in them, which is a different—but equally concerning—problem.) The point is, he didn’t take the time to figure out that his treatment was going the make his patient’s condition worse, not better. Not smart!
If he had stopped to listen to his patient and think about all the information she was giving him, he might have made a better choice and solved her problem. Instead, he created another one for her—under different circumstances, it could have been deadly.
Taking the time to truly listen to your patients can help you understand them better, build rapport with them and ultimately, resolve their health issues. There’s no substitute for this basic customer service tenet. So remember the old saying about having one mouth and two ears? Use those ears twice as often as you use your mouth, and you won’t regret it.