Maximizing Your Teaching Moments

Man in exam room talking to healthcare provider.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.

As you say hello

  • As you enter 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. This way 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. Adjust your explanation accordingly.

  • Give your reasons for tests, treatment, or medicine to encourage a patient’s sense of working together.

  • 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. This can 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. This can aid informed consent or improve patient understanding.

  • You might also note any communication challenges. These include 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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