There are always stories about how doctors with awkward bedside manners can be great physicians – really, it’s an age-old Hollywood theme, right? Some quirky professional who is really good at his/her job so the odd personality is excused. Well, we are service providers, and in real life, people don’t want a rude health care professional even if the care is the best. As physical therapists, we spend a great deal of each session with our clients, and we want them to continue to choose us for care.
No matter what is on your plate that day, be happy to see your client. If they are running late, still do what you can for them. Don’t immediately penalize them, but when the session is up, simply apologize that you have to go treat your next client, and let them continue to stretch or workout on some equipment on their own. Yes, your time is valuable, and your schedule is packed. No, the next client shouldn’t be delayed. But you don’t know what caused this one client to run late, and showing your annoyance is not likely going to make them want to be on time for the next session.
Let your patients talk. This works at all levels of care. Listening can go a long way. The most common complaint that patients have is that they don’t feel like they have been heard by their physicians. People feel like their pain is unique, and do not want to be made to feel like you’ve heard it all before. We are spending a fair amount of one-on-one time with our clients, more than most health care professionals; let them talk while you do your hands on treatment, or while they are exercising. There are individuals who want to explain every detail about their pain before you can start any intervention, and as the minutes tick by, you are wondering how to document and bill for the time you spent listening… Say “why don’t we go for a walk while you tell me how your pain started” or “I want to hear all of the details while I am also doing some tests on you.” Often times, feeling like their complaints have been heard and understood can contribute to as much improvement as your written plan of care.