More Than Words: Small Ways to Show Patients You Understand Their Needs

With a huge number of people afraid of the doctor due to anxiety and fear of being unable to afford the bill, it’s clear to see that many of today’s patients may need some extra reassurance.


Being sick is often a scary time, especially if the person has been recently diagnosed with a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. This means every healthcare professional, not just doctors, needs to think of ways in which they can make the patient’s overall experience as stress-free and positive as humanely possible.


However, this is often easier said than done with many healthcare professionals still being stereotyped as rude, insensitive and sometimes even dishonest. Whilst this certainly doesn’t apply to all who work within the medical field, patients are still claiming to have negative experiences whilst in the care of healthcare professionals, with many saying they simply don’t feel sympathized with or understood.


So, if you’re in the medical field and wish to improve your communication skills towards patients, here’s a few small ways you can show them you understand their needs and are happy to help.




Whilst this may seem extremely obvious, many patients report feeling like they’re feelings and opinions simply aren’t listened to, making them feel unappreciated and just ‘part of the system’.


Whilst, as a busy healthcare professional, you likely have hundreds of patients to see all different circumstances and conditions, it’s still important to see your patients as individuals rather than names on a page.


If you can visibly see a patient in distress or fearful, it’s still your duty to listen and try to help their situation as much as possible. Patient care is often so focused on the big decisions that many healthcare professionals forget how much of a positive impact little things like simply sitting down and listening can have.


Respect their family


Whilst the majority of patient care is focused on the patient, and rightly so, it’s still important to honor their family and consider how they may be feeling.


You likely deliver bad news to a lot of patients every single week, but it’s crucial to remember that what is simply your day job can have catastrophic effects on the physical and mental wellbeing of not only the patient but their family too.


By simply asking if they’re okay and, if not, referring them to local counseling services if necessary, you’re instantly showing the family you care about their emotions just as much as your patient’s. And, if the patient sees you taking care of their family too, you’ll be automatically improving patient experiences as they’ll likely feel more at ease knowing their family hasn’t just been ignored and cast aside.


Let them contribute


When it comes to a patient’s treatment program and methods of care, you’re the expert. So, it’s clearly your job to make the important, somewhat life changing decisions necessary to ensure your patient receives everything they need.


But, some patients won’t be used to this complete lack of control, and this can cause severe anxiety and feelings of helplessness. Seeing other people making the decisions regarding their illness can be extremely unsettling for some patients, and they’ll likely give anything to simply feel involved and like they’re contributing.


So whilst, as a healthcare professional, you’ll have more power than your patient, keep them updated every step of the way and, where possible, give them a choice of possible options when making the important decisions. This will not only give them a much-needed sense of purpose and control over their illness but will also improve communication between you both which will hopefully result in a more positive experience for everyone involved.


Be respectful


Showing respect to your patients at all times is a given but, especially if things aren’t looking good and your patient is becoming increasingly worried and frustrated, keeping your cool and remaining respectful can be challenging.


Simply put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if you felt your illness wasn’t improving? How would you feel if you thought your time was almost at an end? Empathy is one of the most important qualities every healthcare professional will have and will make being patient and respectful a whole lot easier in the long-run.


If you’ve never experienced a serious illness yourself, showing patients you understand can be tricky no matter how high up in the medical field you are. Empathy, listening and giving them a sense of involvement are all simple yet extremely effective ways of not only improving their experience but making your job more rewarding and fulfilling.


Taylor Moran is a healthcare professional who is always looking for better ways to help patients. When he finds something, he enjoys writing about it on many career websites.