Bedside Manner Matters: How Doctors Can Build Rapport With Patients

Paris Dancy avatar

by Paris Dancy |

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The medical drama “The Resident” is one of my favorite TV shows. It centers around a group of doctors navigating the business side of healthcare, advocating for their patients, and managing their own personal issues. Without giving away too much, one part of the show that really stands out to me is the doctors’ bedside manner.

Dr. AJ Austin, played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner, is a board-certified cardiothoracic, general, and trauma surgeon. The show introduced him as extremely arrogant, and he always used quotes to get his message across. But the more we see him interact with patients, the more we realize there is something genuine about him. Austin is extremely confident, and that affects not only the doctors around him, but also the patients.

What you say and how you say it matters. One of my college professors hammered a message into all of his students that had a major impact on me: Language is essential. In my opinion, every healthcare worker should remember this.

According to a review of clinical trials published in the journal PLOS One, the provider-patient relationship can make a significant impact on a patient’s health.

Whether it’s a doctor on “The Resident” or a doctor I’ve encountered during my own journey with Cushing’s disease, I’ve found that the ones who successfully navigate patient relationships have four things in common when it comes to bedside manner.

The patient comes first

Healthcare professionals have to leave their biases at the door with every patient. As human beings, we often allow our belief system to affect how we treat others. The standards for healthcare professionals are high, and rightfully so. Care is so easily forgotten while only health is focused on.

My neurosurgeon showed me what it looks like to put the patient first. Regardless of our lives outside of his office, he always made me feel that I was his most important patient.

Remember that patients are emotional

The majority of patients are not visiting a healthcare professional to hang out and shoot the breeze. They are likely dealing with a wide range of emotions due to a health issue. Not everyone will have the same reaction to a diagnosis, recurring issue, or the unknown. This is a trigger for a lot of people. I was an absolute mess at times, in part because of a hormonal imbalance, but also because all of the ongoing changes often led to other issues.

Confidence is important

The confidence a professional exudes can make or break their relationship with a patient. For example, my neurosurgeon put me at ease with his confidence in his ability to remove my pituitary tumor. He was able to communicate his knowledge to me in a way that was easy to understand, and assure me he would get the job done.

Patients are not dumb

Ignorance about a health condition does not mean a patient is dumb. Be honest but compassionate. Contrary to popular belief, most patients are aware that there’s a possibility of receiving bad news. Treating a patient like they’re not as smart as you may cause them not to speak with you, and it could also be a missed opportunity to build rapport. I never felt that I was being spoken down to or couldn’t ask questions at any of my pre- or post-surgery appointments.

To all healthcare professionals: Remember, your patient needs to know that you care and that you understand that this is an emotional time in their life. Reassure them that you will guide, not judge. It’s important that your confidence does not come across as arrogance or condescension, but eases concerns and allows a trusting relationship to form.


Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.


Jay Tee avatar

Jay Tee

In my experience all doctors are arrogant,and doesnt maqtter how long they have studied things,the patient live these things. All they seem to do is a tickbox diagnosis,to the diagnosis they want,and do not ask the questions they should,to get right diagnosis. Free healthcare in England,means nothing is ever achieved. All about drug manufacturers getting healthcare to push their junk,by making contracts with drs. Healthcare puts cost over lives!


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