I don’t know about you, but I have a big problem listening to patients. I mean real listening.
Our daily workload increases all the time, our days become more and more procedure- and action-focused.
Over the years I’ve gotten more and more effective in getting things done. I am totally focused on my stuffed to-do-list and listening closely to a patient rarely is on it.
Rarely do I ask an open-ended question and just wait for the patient to talk for a little while. Usually I just ask for complaints, 1-2 minutes of closed-ended questions and I am off to the next task.
And the reasons for that are various:
Listening to patients per se doesn’t
- accomplish anything,
- bring any money,
- solve any problems,
- mark anything off of our to-do-list.
When I listen -really listen- I get impatient easily. Thoughts like these come to my mind:
- OK, I know where he’s going, let’s get to the point.
- This problem doesn’t matter.
- Instead of listening to this irrelevant information I could solve real problems.
But listening to things that are important to the patient is of enormous value.
The patient knows: my point came across.
For some reason he had a desire to share this information with me
- on what his doctor told him twenty years ago
- on what he felt after switching from omeprazole to pantoprazole
- that his back itches every time he takes a bath.
And yes, medically speaking, this information didn’t bring me ANY value. There is nothing that I’ll do differently now: no examination I’ll order, no other treatment-plan. Medically: no value, pretty much a waste of time. But: the patient knows: This doctor took this seriously. All the others didn’t care. He listened to the end, he didn’t interrupt me, didn’t tell me that this is unimportant: what a relief this must be for him. The patient finally got this information of his chest.