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Rx for friendliness

February 07, 2005|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Ever had a not-so-friendly experience with a nurse, paramedic or doctor?

Like a growing number of Americans, the answer to that question might be yes, Washington County Hospital emergency room physician Dr. Scott Diering said.

The trend is one that Diering hopes to turn around with a nationwide effort to make patients feel special, "even loved," by their health-care providers, he said.

"I just want to raise awareness that patients are people and more than a diagnosis," Diering said.

Like a politician on the campaign trail, Diering has been touring the country encouraging health-care providers to join him today in celebrating the nation's first Love Your Patients Day.

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The new observance - to be held Feb. 7 annually - was founded by Diering, who introduced the idea after writing the tutorial book "Love Your Patients! Improving Patient Satisfaction With Essential Behaviors That Enrich the Lives of Patients & Professionals."

"Good bedside manner engenders trust. If they like each other, they'll get along," Diering said. A good relationship also makes patients more likely to follow their doctor's advice, he said.

Diering and his wife, Sandy, have mailed hundreds of lapel pins to health-care providers who are joining him in celebrating the new holiday. Pins may be ordered from Diering's Web site: www.loveyourpatients.org.

The 256-page book is written in a conversational style, targeting health-care professionals who want to improve their interpersonal skills with patients, he said.

"Medical schools usually teach a physical diagnosis class, where they teach students to think in terms of 'listen to this and you'll hear that,'" Diering said. "There are few medical schools that offer courses on personal interaction and rapport building."

Diering, a former clinical psychologist, said the patient-doctor relationship is essential to any meaningful healing in the field of psychology. He said the same holds true of patient-doctor relationships in other specialties.

Diering said providers need to take time to listen.

"It just takes a few extra seconds to make eye contact, smile and let patients talk," he said.

In 1988, Diering enrolled in the Wake Forest University School of Medicine to pursue a career in emergency medicine. After graduation, his career took him to small towns and cities across the country. Building on his experience, he conceived the idea for the book when he started teaching medical school residents.

"In my training, I watched physicians who were good at building rapport and I noticed the things they did and I tried to write it down to make a list for residents, and the list just grew and grew," he said.

Since the book's release in May 2004, Diering has appeared on television stations in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. He also has delivered lectures to medical associations and hospitals, and done interviews for publications.

During his lectures, participants discuss specific patient cases and Diering offers proven solutions to lower patient complaints, he said.

Interpreting nonverbal hints and clues from patients who aren't able to express themselves is critical for health-care providers, Diering said.

"Like when a patient says, 'This bed is very uncomfortable,' when what they really mean to say is, 'I think I'm getting a bedsore,'" he said.

Patients who feel ignored are more likely to file malpractice lawsuits, he said.

"If someone is upset about the food being cold or the medication coming late, you need to acknowledge what they're upset about," he said. "Don't ignore it."

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