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Dynamic Chiropractic – December 17, 2006, Vol. 24, Issue 26

Bedside Manner Matters

By Michelle Geller-Vino, CA

Believe it or not, when a new patient calls the office to schedule an appointment, the chiropractic assistant is the one who makes the first impression! Yes, it may be you who determines if that potential patient will actually schedule an appointment.

How do you sound on the phone? Are you friendly, energetic, enthusiastic and knowledgeable? It is not just what you say, but how you say it that leaves a lasting impression in a person's mind. Bedside manner consists of making choices with other people in mind. As a chiropractic assistant, having a good bedside manner can be one of the keys in successful patient retention (and patient attraction, too).

Bedside manner isn't only how you treat a patient while at the office, but also how you relate to them out of the office as well. The characteristics that make up a great bedside manner are: rapport-building, active listening and compassion. The qualities that make up these three characteristics are found in your core value system, and by demonstrating these qualities on a regular basis, you can make a difference in your practice members' lives. If you're looking to make a positive impact on the people you meet everyday, follow the Three Golden Rules for having excellent bedside manner.

Golden Rule #1: Rapport-Building Begins at the First Word

Rapport is the single most important factor in building a relationship. When two people are able to relate to each other, they form a mutual bond and respect - rapport. As the key to successful office-patient relationships, it is important to know that rapport begins to develop right from the very first conversation you have with someone - in person or over the phone. A good practice to adopt, if you don't do this already, is to smile when you answer the phone. Believe it or not, callers can actually detect a positive difference in the tone of your voice when you are smiling. First impressions, although at times incorrect, leave lasting marks. In order to ensure that rapport can be established, you need to be cautious of how people perceive you from the very first word. If you demonstrate high energy and enthusiasm from the start, you will be able to begin the rapport-building process - a key factor in good bedside manner.

Golden Rule #2: Be an Active Listener

Are you really hearing what someone is saying when you have conversations? The root of being an active listener comes from being authentic and understanding. People like to know they are understood and your patients like to feel they have your undivided attention. Genuine people tend to have the best bedside manner simply because when someone is genuine, they shine the light of authenticity. Asking questions shows you are interested and are hearing what they say. Offer feedback, even summarizing what was just said in your own words. Respond to what they say by sharing a similar story and relating. And most importantly, make eye contact! Don't stare at the computer screen or the appointment book when a patient is speaking to you. Even if you are extremely busy, take the time to listen actively to what your patients are saying to you. When people feel that they are understood, a feeling of comfort arises - another important characteristic of great bedside manner.

Golden Rule #3: Have Compassion

Having compassion for others is a quality that is necessary because when people know you care about them, it makes them feel special - and who doesn't like to feel special? When people feel special, it bonds them to you and makes them feel a connection that, if nurtured, will never be broken. Even if you are having a terrible day, treat each and every patient as you would want to be treated when you visit a doctor's office.

Here is another situation in which authenticity comes into play: Don't overdo the caring responses and gestures, or else your compassion could be seen as fake. Truly empathize - when someone shares information with you, put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine what they must be thinking and feeling. Compassion comes easier to some than others, but it is something that can be learned and mastered by all - an essential trait of those individuals with good bedside manner.

With these concepts in mind, how is your bedside manner? Do you begin to build good rapport with patients from the first moment they call the office or walk in the door? Do you let others know that what they have to say is important to you by being an active listener? And do you treat others with genuine compassion, no matter how you feel inside? If you can answer yes to all three questions, chances are you have the necessary characteristics that make for appropriate bedside manner.

Contrary to popular belief, good beside manner is not the sole responsibility of the doctor. Chiropractic assistants also have the job of making sure patients feel good from the moment they pick up the phone or walk in the door. So, practice the Three Golden Rules of good bedside manner and set a positive example for those around you.

Click here for previous articles by Michelle Geller-Vino, CA.

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