The Doctor/Nurse Patient Relationship

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For anybody in the medical profession, whether it is a doctor, consultant or nurse, no other relationship is as important than that between the medical professional and the patient. The patient-practioner relationship is one of the most studied and yet least understood aspects of health care delivery. This relationship is something everybody wanting a career in medicine needs to understand and develop in order to provide quality care to patients, but it is not something that is easily taught.

The relationship between a doctor, nurse and the patient is a critical one for successful healthcare delivery. Patients need to have confidence in the healthcare professional and feel they are able to confide in them. If a patient feels a doctor or nurse isn’t competent or is too remote, he or she may withhold crucial information, which could affect the diagnosis and treatment of a condition. Patients are more likely to feel comfortable with a nurse, doctor or other professional that is friendly, and yet, there is a fine line between friendliness and appearing over-familiar.

The patient-practioner relationship is based on good communication, trust and mutual respect. Patients need to feel that the practitioner is taking them seriously, is concerned about their welfare, and is open and honest about treatment and diagnosis. If a patient doesn’t feel the practitioner is offering these qualities, he or she are more likely to dismiss treatments, hide symptoms and not follow medical advice.

One of the difficulties of a patient-practioner relationship, often known as the “bedside manner,” is that everybody is different. While some doctors and nurses find it easy to make patients feel relaxed and comfortable, others find it more difficult and find they have to work much harder at the relationships they have with patients. Humour, for instance, helps develop a relationship with a patient, but not everybody finds humour easy, and as humour is subjective, what one person finds funny, another may find offensive, so striking a balance can prove difficult. However, there are several key aspects to developing a successful relationship with a patient:

First contact – the first meeting with a patient is often the most important for developing any relationship. As first impressions count for so much, it is important that when meeting a patient for the first time, care is taken to listening to their concerns and helping to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

Boundaries – clear boundaries between the relationship between the patient and practitioner need to be set. Over-familiarity, unnecessary intrusion into personal lives and unprofessional behaviour should be avoided at all times to ensure these boundaries are kept..

Confidentiality – all patients need to know that anything they tell the medical professional is held in the strictest confidence. Whilst other medical professionals should be told important information, anybody outside the medical team, such as family members, should only be told personal information with the patient’s permission.

Respect – respecting the patient, their wishes and their needs is also integral for developing a successful practioner-patient relationship. Being aware of cultural needs and concerns, and being tolerant to people from other diverse backgrounds is essential for developing a good relationship.

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