Patients want to be heard, and have their problems seen through their own eyes when it comes to health communication with a doctor
For a patient to be heard starts their healing process. When a patient sees that the chiropractor is attentively listening to what is being said through their health communication, the patient’s fears start to fade.
The most ordinary and everyday patient consultation is an appeal for help. Can you feel what they feel? Do you know in your heart what pain and suffering are like? Every piece of advice given by the doctor, in the patient’s eyes, is a means of restoring their chances of successful healing threatened by disease or by some symptom.
Health communication: when a patient is heard
Healing, meaning a satisfactory outcome for the patient, is relief of pain, diminished anxiety, acceptance of one’s lot in life, less disability and a positive mental attitude. The concerned chiropractor who listens begins to validate the patient’s problems. The doctor reveals the cause of the patient’s condition with the “hands on” palpation, nerve tracing and explanation of X-rays. The patient can relax knowing they were heard and understood.
Mutual acceptance and validation calms and encourages the patient. They now know their suffering is seen as an acceptable illness that can be handled by chiropractic.
Validation is a team effort. Positive regard for your patient is a core quality that fuels continued doctor-patient interaction. Confidence, personal involvement and genuine concern are the foundation of the clinical application. Attentiveness nourishes the patient’s own desire in becoming well and engages them toward accepting their responsibility in the process of healing.
Being a number, seen and not heard by a doctor, alienates patients.
“Medically speaking…the patient becomes a translucent screen through which they peer in order to find a disease entity within,” said John L. Coulehan, former director of Stony Brook University’s medical school programs in ethics and humanities. “If no disease is evident after appropriate evaluation, they often reassure the patient that ‘nothing is wrong’ and could be psychological or psychosomatic. Chiropractic clinical analysis does not ‘subtract’ the patient but remains closer to the patient’s experience in explaining symptoms than the medical profession, for it treats the cause, not the symptom.
“Chiropractic presents a logical set of beliefs which appeals to common sense, uses scientific terminology, yet promotes a natural, noninvasive, holistic approach to healing rather than the medical approach which people view as excessive, dependent upon technology and drugs.”
The art of listening
We as chiropractors do not just sit and talk and then write a prescription; we join with patients in their care through health communication.
Listening is a learned art.
Doctor, can you stop listening to your own immediate concerns? Can you stop reacting to the pressures of business tugging on you daily? Clear your mind and awaken your senses to observe by sight, touch and verbal communications before entering the treatment room. Remember, it is not about you!
You must be a sponge to the words you hear. Yes, listening is a forced action — learning to discern the patient’s feelings of expectation, their frustrations, and even recognizing their fears as they present their situation. Probe your patient for further explanation to specific statements and then repeat what you heard them say.
Check your attitude at the door. Do not try to impress them; try to understand them instead. Join with them in their need for a healthier lifestyle. We as chiropractors actively participate with each patient in their treatment. We must awaken our empathy the minute we introduce ourselves to each patient to feel the joy we will receive from helping another human being through health communication. This listening leads to action and the natural law of life, which is to be healthy.
Gary Boring, DC, BCAO (Board Certified Atlas Orthogonal), LCP (HON.), FICA, graduated from Cleveland Chiropractic K.C. in 1968. His father graduated in 1934 from CCC K.C., and his brother in 1966. Boring Chiropractic has served patients for 86 years.