Trying to explain complex issues sympathetically is part of excellent patient communication. It’s also a two-way street. Practising the art of listening and reflecting back the concerns of a patient with reassurance can be just as important.
The best dental professionals are those who have great communication as well as medical skills. Here are seven tips to help improve the relationship you have with your patients.
1. Engage with Those Who Need Your Help
Your physical appearance is important along with the level of eye contact. If you look as though you take care of yourself then patients are more likely to think you’ll take good care of them.
Your patients need to feel that you’re on their side. That means finding common ground, no matter how trivial. Give them your full attention, listen carefully and acknowledge their concerns.
You know you care. That’s why you decided that a career in dentistry was right for you. Make sure your patients feel that too.
2. Ask Open Questions
Make time for your patients to let you know why they needed to come to see you. That means asking open questions that allow them to explain rather than those which might just require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
3. Show Your Patients Useful Information
There might well be online resources and useful websites with important information. This could be of great value to your patients. If so, show them rather than tell them.
You can guide them through and help them grasp medical terms appropriate to their treatment. Don’t overload them with too many sites.
4. Express Empathy
You’ll need to be able to show that you understand your patient’s pain and distress. This is different from expressing sympathy.
“I can see how hard it must be for you to cope with these symptoms,” is a good empathetic statement. This might be very useful when a patient is suffering from dental anxiety.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
Practising the way you talk to patients is definitely going to improve your communication technique. Call on the help of a friend or relative and ask them to play the role of a patient.
Adhere to patient confidentiality but ask them to challenge you. Nothing beats practising saying things out loud.
6. Work with Your Patients
Make sure your patients understand that you want to collaborate with them. Look for and identify any barriers that may be preventing your patients’ communication.
This could mean anything from a hearing problem to an overbearing partner. Work with them to find a way through these issues.
7. Patient Communication Includes Feedback
Listen to any feedback from patients. In fact, you should almost always be proactive in asking for it. It’s a great opportunity to improve patient understanding as well as giving them a better experience whilst under your care.
Validate the feedback by repeating it back to your patient. That demonstrates that you have listened to them with care. It will help to empower them.
Overcoming the Fears of Patients
Good patient communication means listening to the concerns of those in your care as well as offering sound advice. If you can engage with them and empathise, the rest will follow naturally.
Find out more here about surprising benefits that add to dental hygienist job satisfaction.