When You Don’t Like Your Patient
by Susan Keane Baker
Research reported in the October 2011 issue of the journal Pain indicates that patients who are rated as likeable by medical professionals tend to have their pain taken more seriously. A briefing about the research in Anesthesiology News summarized that when the professional doesn’t like someone, he or she tends to judge that person’s pain intensity as lower and take the complaint less seriously.
Here are three techniques to help change your attitude when you next encounter a less-than-likeable patient:
1. Observe who in your organization likes the patient. Ask your colleague what he or she does to create rapport with the person and see if you can adopt or adapt the technique.
2. Learn the patient’s story. Mr. Fred Rogers, the television educator believed that “if you know someone’s story, it’s impossible not to like him.”
3. If you don’t have time to learn the patient’s story, try this quick technique to increase your ability to be empathic and decrease your frustration. Simply complete this sentence:
I wonder if he is ________, because he is ______________.
I wonder if he is always interrupting me because he is ________.
I wonder if she is flirtatious because she is _________________.
I wonder if he always has to be right because he is ___________.
I wonder if she repeats herself because ____________________.
The beauty of this exercise is that whatever you fill in to complete the sentence is something that seems rational to you. You will feel calmer about the difficult person if you take a moment or two to do this!
Just for fun, watch this video of Mary Maxwell giving an invocation at a dinner for the organization Home Instead. She explains, with humor, why people can be less likeable as they age.