Monday, July 25, 2011

Body Language Secret #101:
Physicians - Wherest thou Bedside Manner?

Why do so many physicians have bed-side manners that absolutely stink?

It is a curious observation, that for many physicians, perhaps greater than 50% or higher, the best their interpersonal skills will ever be, is when they graduate from Medical School or maybe in the first year thereafter. After that, it often is a downhill slide.  When they're 36 or 56, they'll hopefully will be much better diagnosticians, surgeons, and probably much better at running a medical office, but for an huge fraction of these educated, esteemed and otherwise successful group of professionals - their interpersonal skills (and sadly their intra-personal skills as well) diminishes - often significantly. It certainly doesn't have to be, nor thankfully is it true for all. Learning body language  - both the interpretation of others and projecting oneself in the proper context - is certainly a  significant, perhaps the most significant way to repair this communication abyss. 

Every physician believes they're good communicators, but most are not. Many stink at it. When it comes to medical litigation, the most common denominator is a failure at communicating in a friendly, accurately, punctual and empathetic way with their patients. This phenomenon quickly flows over into their personal lives. Just ask their spouses. Bluntly put - they're arrogant, impatient, patronizing, lack empathy, etc.- some serious personality issues. Of course, none of them believe in real-time (or for the very few who self-evaluate retrospectively) that they are being perceived in such ways - and this is certainly consistent with lack of self-awareness, ego-centrism and lack of empathy.  Body language skills (along with other skills such as paralanguage training) tightens and/or reconnects this feedback-loop.

Those docs who are truly patient-centered in their thinking and actions will not only virtually eliminate their medical-legal risk, they also benefit from significantly increased career-satisfaction and dramatically reduce burn-out. And then there's this little thing called reputation....go figure.