BECAUSE PATIENTS JUDGE YOUR SKILLS BY YOUR BEDSIDE MANNER
Saint Peter had a terrible cold, so he asked Jesus if he could have the day off to go to the doctor.
Jesus said, “Sure, I’ll watch the Pearly Gates for you.” It was a slow day and at the end of the day an old man with white hair approached the gates.
“May I enter the Kingdom of Heaven?”
Jesus replied, “We’d love to have you, but tell me what you’ve done to earn your space here among the good?”
“I am but a simple carpenter, however my son was very special. I raised him to be a carpenter too, but a miraculous transformation came over him and to this day
all love him.”
Jesus smiled and jumped up, “Father!”
The old man opened his arms, “Pinocchio!”
Never discuss controversial issues. Diversity of thought is not conducive to endearing relationships with your patients. Your position as a doctor provides a soapbox you should avoid mounting. While it may be tempting to proselytize and persuade, you will offend more than you convert.
If a patient asks your opinion on any hot-button issue, tell them you never discuss politics or religion. Even if you know and agree with their political views, a patient in the next room (who’s vehemently opposed to your beliefs) could overhear your conversation and find a new practitioner.
Since most people will not take the advice of the last two paragraphs, they should at least be armed with the proper rules of engagement when they venture into deep waters. While it is best to avoid discussing politics and religion, if you know where and when to discuss such taboo things you can develop some strong bonds with certain patients. The trick to where and when really comes down to with whom and what you should discuss. There is nothing more binding than to know that the other person embraces your politics or religion. There is also nothing more divisive that knowing you disagree with the other person’s politics or religion. This means you have to know what the other person believes before you speak or you will get into trouble. If you don’t know your patients, don’t get started on controversial issues.
Here is an example of how it works. Whenever you treat law enforcement people, discuss how weak we are on crime, how the cops’ hands are being tied, and how lawyers are screwing up everything. Of course when treating convicts, discuss the excesses of police brutality, how the death penalty is not a deterrent, and how mandatory sentences are just not fair to the criminal class. You get the idea.
Conversation is rarely about politics and religion. More often your patients will enjoy conversation regarding everyday things you may have in common. If you treat many hunters, they will love your hunting stories and feel a particular closeness. Golf conversation is contagious between golfers. If your patient is wearing a Greenpeace button, sure, go ahead and tell them about how you bombed a fishing boat to protect the dolphins; it can’t hurt.
Most small communities are rather homogenous. Quite often, everyone in a small town belongs to the same house of worship, and they maintain memberships in the same clubs. This affords you the opportunity to have common beliefs, goals, and aspirations. If you know your people, you can discuss anything as long as you agree with them.
• Craig C
• A. Vo
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