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Get to Know Your Patients

Making a Point to Get to Know Your Patients – Jason M., Occupational Therapist

 In therapy, an in medicine in general, the more you know about the patient the better you can serve them. Much of this information is gained upon the initial evaluation, but how much can you really know about a person just meeting them one time? Especially when they may be dependent on you and your decisions to recover from their current state? That being said…talk to your patients. That’s it. While they take rest breaks, while transporting them to therapy, while completing repetitions with exercises, talk to your patients. The more information you can get about who they are and what makes up the components of their life, the better you can treat them. Human beings are social creatures; even the more introverted, shy people still can talk to others. I have always found that my treatments have gotten better and more appropriate for that individual the more I know them. That being said, here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • The conversation can be casual. You don’t have to bring out a file and spot light and drill them for data.
  • Questions should come as frequent as comments. Sometimes patients don’t give up information freely, but asking the right question can bring the data to the surface.
  •  Remember and expand upon points or remarks they have already made the get more details regarding them.
  • Be observant for body language. If a patient is avoiding eye contact or shifts their weight with questions, they may be uncomfortable with that subject. In converse, a quick response and increased alertness can demonstrate a genuine interest.

 

– Look for clues for topics to discuss. Even in a relatively empty hospital room, you can find

things to talk about that focus on the patient. Anything from articles of clothing, personal choice of toiletries, photos or pictures, and cards and open up entire conversations of unrelated topics.

  • Share your stories. Without crossing lines or overdoing it, share stories from your own life that reflect something that a patient has shared or done. This can often create an instance connection.
  • Don’t talk about yourself too much. Remember that this is about the patient, not you. I’m encouraging this conversation to build a therapeutic relationship with the patient, not dump your personal baggage at their feet.
  • And don’t talk too much. It’s good to fill the silence, but sometimes step away from the patient or give them a minute or two to sit quietly when resting. Everything in moderation.

So the next time you have a patient sitting in front of you, ask yourself: How much do I really know about this patient? Make it a point to learn something everyday about the patients under your care. I think you’ll be surprised how much you can learn from them and their life stories.