Improving medical students

Archive for June 28th, 2007

Communicate Better: Tune into Details

Posted by medliorator on June 28, 2007

Taking a good history and being a good doctor requires paying attention to even the most seemingly insignificant details. Many doctors might be very adept at scrutinizing their patients in every way, yet they forget to turn their astute powers of observation on themselves.


Communicating effectively with patients is not just about the questions you ask, but rather how you ask them. The tone of your voice and the reaction on your face can frequently communicate more to your patient than their lab results or their diagnosis.


I once observed a fellow student interview a patient who had a very long list of complaints. After the patient finished describing each complaint, the student said, “okay, and that’s it?” The student was obviously hoping that the patient had no more problems that they’d have to explore. It was quite apparent that the patient quickly caught on to the student’s annoyance, as she eventually gave less and less information about each complaint.


We’ve probably all seen at least one med student get so wrapped up in taking a history or performing an exam that they walk into the examining room without introducing themselves or asking the patient’s name. This “lack” of communication with the patient certainly does communicate a lot!

The Doctor is in the Details [The Differential]

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