From day one, medical students are taught about how to take a thorough history and conduct a physical examinations. We are given tools to help us assess a patient’s chief complaint (the reason they are seeing the doctor) and provide them with the a helpful solution that can alleviate their concerns. I have have various interactions with patients that are not open to speaking about what brings them into the office. They might be shy, scared, sad, or just not comfortable…and that is okay! Here are some tips to help you make your patients feel comfortable during the interview session:
- Meet the patient where they are emotionally. If a patient is low energy it would be helpful to approach them with a calm demeanor versus an excited one.
- Ask open ended questions. I am definitely guilty of asking “yes/no” questions that do not leave any room for elaboration. BUT when I do ask open ended questions I find that the patients open up more and give you all the information you need!
- Silence is okay. Sometimes we might feel uncomfortable by silence, tears, or just a lack of any form of communication. But sometimes, that silence or a moment without any interaction is just what the patient needs to feel at ease.
- Speak to patients in their own language. Sometimes, with an interpreter present I try to practice my Spanish with Spanish speaking patients so that we can (at least try) and communicate without any barriers. I have been surprised how well this approach works with my introverted patients.
- Practice, practice, practice. I would spend a few days a night practicing my interview skills with classmates who would pretend to be patients so that we are better equipped to approach whatever situation might be thrown at us during clinic.
I hope that these tips can help you during your hospital rotations, clinic days, or even patient-counter exams at school! If you have any other tips about how to provide successful patient interviews, comment down below!