Bedside manner is one of the most important factors contributing to a positive patient experience. Visiting the doctor can be an extremely stressful situation for patients, and having a provider who is friendly and attentive can make all the difference for a patient’s experience. From my experience as a nurse, patients are more comfortable when providers engage with them on a personal level. Even though providers often must jump for one room to the next, it is important that they take the time to learn about each patient’s individual needs. By taking this time and providing individualized care, I have learned that patients are more likely to follow medical advice and to be more trusting of the health care professional.
Bedside manner can also impact patient outcomes. I have noticed that when health care providers are more engaged with their patients and demonstrate strong empathy through active listening and developing a positive rapport, patients are more likely to share their concerns and challenges with chronic disease management. Consequently, providers gain a better understanding of what the patient actually needs and are able to provide better overall care.
As a health care professional, I know when I display empathy towards patients, they are more likely to trust me and tell me more about themselves rather than if I am less engaged in a conversation. It is important to make every patient interaction, no matter how short, meaningful. Sometimes, it just takes a small interaction to make a major impact on a patient’s life.
In nursing school, even if I was in a clinic or on the floor for a brief time, I made sure to do my best to be fully engaged in every patient interaction to make it meaningful for both the patient and the rest of my team. A patient’s chart can only reveal so much. When providers have a meaningful conversation with patients, the providers gain a better, more holistic understanding of the patient, determine how to deliver challenging news, decide which information would be especially motivating for treatment, and many other insights that would not be possible without having a great bedside manner.
Physicians who demonstrate empathy can be subjectively viewed by patients as providing a higher quality of medical care. Consequently, patients will ask more questions and trust their physicians to listen to them. A pleasant bedside manner may positively improve patient outcomes, but it can definitely make or break a provider’s career. Providers who have strong, positive relationships with their patients may be more likely to move up the professional ranks.
For example, Dr. Greg Schneider, assistant professor of family practice and community medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, explained that providers who communicate well are less likely to be sued for malpractice than poor communicators. In addition, Schneider observed situations in which physicians who connect well with patients thrive in a group medical practice, while less personable physicians are not as successful.
Physicians who project a courteous bedside manner likely are more fulfilled with their careers, which is something I have seen firsthand. When providers communicate effectively, they and their patients reap the benefits. Patients better understand what they need to do to recover and to stay out of the hospital. The importance of bedside manners goes beyond just avoiding a malpractice case. Treating patients with the respect and kindness that they deserve helps protect the integrity of physicians all over the world. Ultimately, communication could be the key not only to improving relationships with current patients, but also improving their care.