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Maximizing Your Teaching Moments

During each clinical encounter, there are moments that arise naturally as ideal “teaching moments.” Here’s a quick summary of how to apply the ideas to a typical patient encounter, to build trust and compliance.

Doctor talking with a mature patient.

As You Say Hello

  • Upon entering the room, greet the patient by name. Introduce yourself as needed.

  • Acknowledge any family members who are present by shaking hands or making eye contact.

  • Acknowledge the wait, if there was one.

  • Ask an open-ended question about the reason for the visit, to get a sense of the patient’s mindset and emotional state.

  • If a patient has several reasons for the visit, prioritize them together, so you can focus on dealing with the primary concern.

As You Ask Questions

  • Keep eye contact and listen for potential barriers to successful treatment.

  • Show your empathy for a patient’s situation. Acknowledge his or her emotional state. This validates the patient’s concern or fear.

  • Try to frame your dialog using a patient’s own words and level of medical sophistication.

As You Explain

  • Keep a clear focus on the diagnosis, procedure, self-care, or other information you’re delivering.

  • Watch for changes in the patient’s body language or voice that signal fear or incomprehension, and adjust your explanation accordingly.

  • Give your rationale for tests, treatment or medication to encourage a patient’s sense of collaboration.

  • Use patient education materials to reinforce your message.

Before a Patient Leaves

  • Get a repeat demonstration of skills a patient needs to master.

  • Ask an open-ended question to check their understanding of skills.

  • Clearly state one achievable goal a patient can work toward before the next visit, to help your visits feel successful.

After the Visit

  • You or a staff member can note in a patient’s chart any booklets, videos, or other materials you’ve given out, to aid informed consent or improve patient understanding..

  • You might also note any communication challenges, such as low-literacy skills (or highly literate Internet skills), to help the next visit go more smoothly for you and the staff.


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