I recently read an insightful article that gave a good summary of the qualities women are seeking in an OBGYN. Recent reports show that many young women prefer female physicians compared to their male colleagues. Assuming that physicians are knowledgeable and skilled, is it communication skills that give female OBGYNs the edge?
To better understand the softer side of feminine communication, here’s a list of techniques for improving your communication skills during the patient-doctor visit. Being caring and compassionate is a good place to start. Beyond that, in your patient encounter:
- Introduce yourself with a warm greeting or handshake, showing politeness, respect and approachability.
- If possible, be sitting down to show that you have time to listen to all the reasons for the visit.
- Repeat back to the patient your understanding of her concerns to show that she has been heard.
- Try to warn in advance about any parts of the exam that might be uncomfortable. If you cause pain such as by drawing blood, or palpating a tender spot, say you are sorry for causing the discomfort but that it has to be done as part of the exam.
- Give good instructions about medication use and show you are interested in her understanding what she needs to do.
- Offer resources for more information to facilitate doing individual research about the topics that were discussed.
- Give a good send off at the end of the visit by saying “Thanks for coming in” or “See you again next year” to show you appreciate her coming in for a visit. Sometimes the most important concern will be expressed as the patient gets up, walks to the door and stops, just before leaving.
- Be a hero with the patient by following up on tests, returning calls or emails and being available to address concerns.
Being approachable, making time for the patient, helping her to be at ease during an exam, listening to and caring about her concerns, and giving a good explanation about plans for treatment makes the OBGYN a physician whom patients look forward to see.