December 15, 2015
2 min read

BLOG: Tips for improving your bedside manner

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Although being a medical doctor and being an optometrist are different, having an approachable and professional bedside manner is still crucial to your success as an optometrist.

Here are just a few tips you can follow that can help turn your bedside manner from a weakness into a strength.

Be aware of your posture. Perhaps one of the least thought about facets of bedside manner, proper posture is crucial whether you’re prepping your patient for surgery or simply giving a general eye exam. Remember: optometrist appointments can be confusing, disheartening or even frightening to patients, meaning you need to adopt a posture that puts your patient at ease.

Avoid defensive body language – no crossed arms, stoic faces or nervous ticks – and make sure your facial expression is calming and at ease. Sometimes just standing like nothing is wrong – even when something might be – is enough to take the edge off and keep your patient calm and happy. This is especially important when you’re about to give bad news (such as when you’re diagnosing an eye disease or prescribing a treatment a bit more invasive than what your patient may have expected).

Never stop caring. As doctors, events or health issues that may be life changing to others can often become rote or by-the-numbers as time goes on. With this world weariness often comes flippancy or even a lack of caring for patients, even though they just received a diagnosis that may have changed their whole world’s outlook (even getting glasses can be this way, especially for younger children).

Although I don’t recommend making a big deal out of every patient you prescribe surgery or glasses to, I do think that it’s important to appreciate the gravity of the situation and allow your patients to understand that you do so. By doing this, you stay humanized and can show your patient that you’re not just a doctor, you’re a caring human being that only has their best interests in mind.

In other words, hold onto your empathy and put yourself on your patients’ side; they need the support in their time of need, regardless of how common or mundane their prognosis may seem.

Watch your language. The moment many patients step into a doctor’s office – even an optometrist’s – they instantly can begin wondering what is wrong. In their mind, every word is a confirmation that they are about to go blind, lose their eyes or die – regardless of how far out that prognosis may seem. As such, it’s exceedingly important to make sure your language is as straightforward and obvious as possible.

Avoid medical jargon, be affirmative in your statements – don’t say nothing is wrong, say everything is fine – and do all you can to avoid worrying your patient unduly. Trust me; a straight shooting doctor is a doctor that will experience far fewer freak-out moments from their patients. Just watch how you phrase things, and you’ll be well on your way to improving your patient manner.

At the end of the day, working as a doctor day in and day out can soon have you ignoring the little things, even though the little things are what make good doctors great. So, start watching your posture, keeping your language fine-tuned and letting your human side show just a bit more. You may be surprised the effects these simple acts may bring.