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The art of being a doctor

Research, through inquiry, testing, and discovery provides the scientific basis for what we know as doctors. But what about the art? Even with right evaluation and treatment decisions, care can be miserably unsuccessful due to unsatisfactory interpersonal interactions. To this end, an article published in the journal Family Practice Management condenses the art of practice into 7 fundamental behaviors or characteristics that nurture consistently positive interpersonal interactions.[1] The 7 components that enhance the art of practice are listed and briefly described below. Research supports many potential therapeutic and other beneficial effects that occur when doctors practice the elements listed below. For a better understanding of the concepts, I strongly encourage readers to obtain the full article.

1. “Focus on the patient:” Prepare for the patient encounter by taking a moment before entering the room. During that moment, clear your mind of other thoughts and focus it on the patient. Anticipate the patient’s needs, and ready yourself for being observant of mood, actions, words etc. The idea behind this characteristic is that by focusing on the patient before entering the room, you can better interact, observe, and communicate after entering.

2. “Establish a connection with the patient:” Establish communication with the patient before altering your attention to a computer screen or chart. While this may seem like wasted time, it allows you to begin to learn about mood, enhances patient satisfaction, and communicates that you are interested in them as a person.

3. “Assess the patient’s response to illness and suffering:” Assessing a symptom or condition and rendering a diagnosis, critical components of a clinical encounter, are incomplete without understanding how they affect the patient on a personal level. Asking questions such as: “How does this affect you personally?” or “How does this condition/symptom limit you?” can reveal valuable information for you and the patient.

4. “Communicate to foster healing:” Communication should display the authenticity of the provider, acceptance of the patient as a person, and understanding of what the patient experiences.

5. “Use the power of touch:” A handshake, a gentle touch and touching the area of pain can be therapeutic. However, factors such as cultural sensitivity, patient history and explaining / asking permission before touching can be extremely important.

6. “Laugh a little:” Humor can be therapeutic and help generate rapport.

7. “Show some empathy:” Showing empathy usually means verbalizing thoughts about the patient’s experience. Comments such as, “That must be difficult for you” acknowledge your deeper understanding of their situation.

Reference List

1. Egnew TR: The art of medicine: seven skills that promote mastery. Fam Pract Manag 2014, 21(4): 25-30.

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