- Question from Justine: What sort of training do doctors get in how to be sensitive when dealing with people? Do you think more should be done to educate them in how they talk with patients?
Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H.
Medical schools and training programs vary. Whenever courses on increasing sensitivity are offered, they are filled with people who are already very sensitive. As a result, speakers often find they are 'preaching to the choir.' What is encouraging, however, is that such training programs actually work.
In our training program, physicians in training spend a great deal of time with various doctors to learn different styles of talking with patients. It's rewarding to see people learning how to speak with their patients in the most sensitive ways. I absolutely do believe that these are learnable and teachable skills, and that greater emphasis should be placed on these subjects.
Physicians are bombarded with so much information—more and more as the pace of medical science quickens. It's important to remember that most of the healing happens in a quiet room with two to three people listening to each other and respecting each other.
Marisa C. Weiss, M.D.
You yourself can be a powerful teacher. You can say to your doctor, 'What would help me most is if you could listen to my concerns and let me know what you're thinking.' Or you might say, 'I'm having a tough time these days. Today I would prefer to just spend the time with you alone, without all of your house staff and students. I can't handle an audience. What I need most is your sensitivity and attention to what's on my mind.'
This type of conversation sets things up in a way that's most likely to meet your needs. It's also a positive way to teach your doctor. By saying you need his sensitivity; you're implying that he has sensitivity. You can also do things to make the conversation more intimate. You could pull your chair a little closer, or you could put your hand on his arm and say, 'Thank you, but today I really need to address something else.' There are a lot of little things one can do in a relationship to make the situation more comfortable.
On Wednesday, February 19, 2003, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called The Doctor-Patient Relationship. Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about how to find the right doctor for you, and how to create and maintain a good, open relationship with your doctor so you can be sure to get all the care and information you need.
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