Although medicine is often very objective, there are aspects of this profession that require a little more feeling than thinking! Sure, years of medical schooling have probably got you focused on the fine details of every symptom, but sometimes you’ll encounter something quite human — patient embarrassment! Good health is something that is often made public… except when patients would rather not discuss their issues. Since avoiding embarrassing conversations can lead to avoiding treatment, it’s critical that doctors find ways to help embarrassed patients overcome this!
Whether it’s strange odors, excessive sweating, issues with very private areas, or even something as common as thinning hair, talking to doctors is the first step. Really, it’s important to acknowledge that everyone is different and responds in their own unique way when it comes to embarrassment. Some people might get defensive, some may be mortified, and other may even act aggressively. That said, here are five ways you can work to make certain dialogue a little less awkward:
Five Ways to Help Embarrassed Patients
1. Designate a Consultation Area
As with most potentially awkward situations, it’s often the setting itself that plays a major role in someone’s comfortability. Consulting with patients in a comfortable space will help them to open up about their condition, as well as concerns they have. Even if you’re a locum tenens physician and your current location is still a bit new, you can use this to your advantage! Relating to patients on the level of a new or uncertain experience may help them feel less alone or singled out. Having a specific consultation area also avoids any additional distractions of a bustling facility for the best results.
2. Approach Patients Yourself
Some patients may actually be too embarrassed to broach the subject themselves. Sometimes using your diagnostic expertise and some good ol’ intuition is enough to start the conversation patients need to have. If a patient feels their question is frivolous or “stupid,” just reassure them that you’re here to help! In any case, avoid prying and exacerbating their embarrassment if they are unwilling to discuss a certain topic. Again, patients react in a variety of ways when confronting an awkward issue, so keep this in mind!
3. Find Others They Can Address
Perhaps a patient doesn’t particularly feel comfortable discussing a certain issue with you personally. Maybe they are dealing with a sex-specific condition for which they would rather consult someone else. Whatever the reason, it could be useful to understand which other doctors or professionals are present at your facility who can help. For locum tenens still learning the layout of things, this can be a challenge. Still, you won’t want to be put in an embarrassing situation yourself if you’re scrambling to redirect a patient’s concerns. Among the ways to help embarrassed patients, this is more preemptive than anything else!
4. Practice Empathy
Above almost all other ways to help embarrassed patients, practicing empathy is one of the single most important things to consider. Embarrassing problems can not only be awkward to discuss but also quite serious in nature. If a patient already struggled to even start the conversation, empathy can help reach the proper conclusion and treatment plan. Furthermore, people can feel like they are alone with their private issues, so reassuring them with your support is key. Again, this is something that locum tenens can take with them on every assignment they embark on!
5. Positive Body Language
We said it before and will say it again. Positive body language goes a long, long way! Considering that communication is almost as subconscious as it is conscious, it’s important to make patients feel comfortable. This can be achieved by being mindful of your body language when addressing embarrassing issues. For instance make an effort to:
- Avoid crossing your arms
- Maintain comfortable eye-contact
- Smile when appropriate
- Meet patients at their level (kneel or sit)
- Nod to show you’re listening
Remember to maintain a calm tone and try to reassure each patient of their options. By practicing each of these ways to help embarrassed patients, you’ll both have better results!
What are some ways you help embarrassed patients? Let us know in the comments below!