Many moons ago, as I lie in the hospital bed feeling slightly sorry for myself (haha), I noticed there were doctors and nurses who were exceptionally pleasant while they go about their clinical duties. They never fail to smile even if it was a long and hard day at work. They tirelessly answer patients’ questions without a hint of agitation even if it was way past their working hours. I have been very lucky to have been able to watch them work as they are truly inspirational.
You had me at hello…
Jerry Maguire, 1996
As cheesy as this might sound, I really cannot believe that I never thought much about how having pleasant healthcare personnel around can really change the patient experience. I know it must be good for anyone to be pleasant to just about anyone, but I hadn’t thought about the real and specific benefits of being pleasant to patients. Truth be told, being pleasant to patients shouldn’t be taken for granted in healthcare settings, even if everyone is busy trying to save lives or perform groundbreaking things. And I’ll tell you why.
Improved Communication & Patient Care Plan
Being pleasant to patients can make them feel at ease during clinical encounters. When healthcare personnel are pleasant, healthy and mutually respectful relationships with patients tend to result. This allows patients to be more relaxed. Once they do, they are more than likely to have open and honest discussions with their healthcare providers. Improved communication will undoubtedly lead to overall improved patient care plans and outcomes.
Increase Patients’ Confidence
In this day and age, when patients’ trust and confidence are hard to come by, it is of utmost importance that healthcare personnel leverage on their most basic human skill, like smiling and being pleasant, in order to regain it. Although patients are generally quite confident in their healthcare providers’ clinical knowledge and skills, they are often in need of assurance in the form of good attitude and behaviour of healthcare personnel to continue building that trust.
Helps Patients Feel Better
We’ve all heard about how smiling (and being pleasant in general) releases endorphins and makes one feel good. I’m not here to tell you (healthcare personnel) what you already know. But I know from my own patient experience, that I tend to feel positive and upbeat when my doctors and nurses are pleasant during clinical encounters. I also feel much better and tend to comply with treatment plans when that happens.
So, what do you (healthcare providers) do when smiling is the last thing you feel like doing? What should you do when the going gets tough and being pleasant becomes so hard? Perhaps remembering these pointers might help.
Remember Your Reason
Remind yourself of the very reason you are in the medical profession. Dig deep. Most of us wanted to become a healthcare professional because we genuinely wanted to help patients. Keep reminding yourself that every day. I believe it is much easier to be pleasant and smile at your patients when you remember why you wanted to do what you do. Trust me, your smile is a form of help to your patients, even if you don’t know it.
Your Patients Are Your Customers
We’ve all heard that “Customer is always right”. But I’m not going to reiterate that, because let’s face it, patients may not always be right (myself included). But, they are your customers. And customers’ satisfaction is key in running any business, including the healthcare business. Satisfying patients by being pleasant would one day be one of the most important factors that account for healthcare personnel reimbursements as the industry shifts towards value-based (aka pay-for-performance) payment system. We have to be ready for that change.
You reap what you sow
I truly believe that when you are kind to others, that kindness will return to you in one form or another. Remember how the last person you smiled at, spontaneously smiled back at you? So, it goes without saying that if you (healthcare personnel) smile and be pleasant to your patients, they will return a smile to you too. And wouldn’t that be wonderful after long and sometimes rough days at work? It’s a definite win-win situation for everyone.
You have not fulfilled every duty unless you have fulfilled that of being pleasant.
Please comment below if you (healthcare personnel) feel that there are glaring benefits of being pleasant and smiling to patients (in terms of improving patient experience) that I have missed. Perhaps share your own tips and tricks that keep you being pleasant and smiling in your daily patient encounters.
There is also an interesting article titled “How Emotional Intelligence Makes You A Better Physician” written by Johanna Vidal Phelan MD, MBA which speaks about this topic too, albeit in the physician’s perspective.
Thank you for reading and don’t forget to share this article with those who might benefit from it.