Physician

How to be More Likable as a Doctor

Doctor with senior patient

Doctor with senior patientIn today’s world where word-of-mouth recommendations mean everything and physician reviews can make or break your practice, being well-respected and liked as a doctor is more important than ever.

But how do you achieve that balance of friendliness and professionalism? What do you do to rebuild your reputation or rebrand yourself?

Here are some tips for becoming more likable:

Smile and make a great first impression

One of the simplest things you can do to instantly seem friendlier is to smile at your patients as you greet them and as they leave their appointments.

A warm, firm handshake goes a long way as well, and your patients will remember the way you interacted with them even if they can’t remember anything you said during the visit.

Call your patient by name

Few things make a patient feel worse than having a doctor who can’t remember (or correctly pronounce) his or her name. Before you walk into the exam room, take a minute to look over the chart in case you haven’t seen in the patient in a while. Say the patient’s name a few times so you don’t forget it, or use a mnemonic device (for example, Isabel likes ice cream) to help you.

If you’re seeing a new patient with an unfamiliar name, pronounce it the way you assume it’s said and ask him whether you were correct. Make a note on his chart for next time so you don’t make the same mistake twice.

Remember anecdotes about your patients

Make someone feel special by asking about something besides his medical history, such as a favorite hobby, his career or even upcoming vacations. If your patient loves to talk about her family, ask her about her children or grandchildren.

It can be impossible to remember personal details about those you care for when you see hundreds of people each month, so use the EHR to keep a few extra notes you can look back on at future visits.

Make eye contact

Show you’re interested in and focused on your patient by making eye contact when you discuss symptoms, possible diagnoses and treatment options.

You should also make an effort to look up or nod in acknowledgement when a patient is asking you questions and you’re recording information on her chart. Eye contact can be hard when you’re busy, but it’s an important step in helping a patient feel valued.

Use a friendly tone and limit jargon

Physicians sometimes have a tendency to slip into a matter-of-fact tone when prescribing medicine or offering care instructions to their patients. Unfortunately, using jargon and speaking too quickly or bluntly can make you seem unfeeling.

Wherever possible, use a friendly tone of voice, make sure the patient understands the different acronyms or terms you’re using, and provide notes or gently ask the patient to write things down if you feel they’ll forget things later.

Don’t act rushed or distracted

You’ll probably always be a bit behind schedule or have a million things to do during the work day, but try not to let your hurry to complete tasks show when you’re with a patient. Avoid looking at your watch or speaking more quickly than normal in hopes of speeding things along, and give your patient time to ask questions and speak to you one on one.

While you may be late to your next appointment, your patients will feel like you value them and want to hear what they have to say.

Though you can’t please everyone, taking a few simple steps to be friendlier toward your patients — and your staff — can go a long way toward improving your practice and achieving positive physician reviews. Read How to be a Rock Star Locum Tenens Doctor for more suggestions on making a great impression.

About the author

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Lindsay Wilcox

Lindsay Wilcox is a healthcare writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional writing experience. When she's not circling typos, she's enjoying fish tacos and hanging out with her family.

3 Comments

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  • “Few things make a patient feel worse than having a doctor who can’t remember (or correctly pronounce) his or her name. Before you walk into the exam room, take a minute to look over the chart in case you haven’t seen in the patient in a while. ”

    The writer seems at first to know that patients can be male or female, but then seems to exclude the possibility that patients can be male.

  • “Few things make a patient feel worse than having a doctor who can’t remember (or correctly pronounce) his or her name. Before you walk into the exam room, take a minute to look over the chart in case you haven’t seen in the patient in a while. Say her name a few times … ”

    The writer seems at first to know that patients can be male or female, but then seems to exclude the possibility that patients can be male.

    • Thanks for keeping us honest on this Kenneth! We make an effort to keep our posts respectful and gender neutral – every so often we slip a pronoun.

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