One of the challenges I encountered this Junior Clerkship is interacting with different kind of patients. Like what I have said before, I am not a people person and I rather hide behind my groupmates than conversing with the patient. However, I am on the progress of training myself to be confident in front of them. I don't know if I am the only one who feels like this but here are some of my notes (for myself) to overcome this kind of situations.
1. Be confident
As a Medical student, it is hard to gain trust from the patient or the patient's relatives because they will look at you as the lowest form of species in the hospital. They will think that you are only a student and you know nothing. Some will also think that you are just experimenting or practicing them with your skills that you got from the classroom.
That is why the number one factor to gain there trust is to be confident. Some preceptors will only instruct you to go to your assigned ward and get some patients. They won't be there to introduce you to the patient. So first thing you have to do is greet them with smile and touch them on the shoulder to break barriers. "Good morning, Ma'm! I am a clerk from ____. I am a doctor in training and I am here to take some information regarding your condition. If it is okay, I will also do some physical examinations to assess on how you are doing right now." In that way, you will be able to establish rapport to the patient and he/she is also confident that you know what you are doing.
2. Be honest
But of course, don't let your confidence bring you to dishonesty and show that as if you know everything. Since you have already told them that you are a doctor in training, tell them what you don't understand from the information you are extracting. Be honest that there are some words from their dialect that you don't understand. Ask them to repeat it slowly or elaborate it in the way you understand. With this, it will make the patient feel that you are listening to him and you are interested in his condition.
3. Always look at them in the eyes
By doing this, it will show that you are interested on what they are saying. This will also show that you are attentive to their needs and they'll feel that you really care. Don't forget to give a pat on their back once in awhile to ease the tension or awkwardness.
4. Don't take history as if you are filling up a form
I am guilty on this. I frequently forget on the questions that I should ask that is why I bring a form with me when interviewing a patient. There are also times that I don't bring and there I can see the difference between taking history with form or without form. With the "without form" interview, you will be able to converse with the patient without dead air. You can ask questions simultaneously. It's as if you are conversing like normal friends. The patient will also feel comfortable about it and maybe you can extract some other information that can contribute to your clinical formulation.
Patience, patience , patience. In the hospital, you will encounter different kind of patients. Some are cooperative, some are irritable while some are full alibis. That is why, patience. Just continue to be confident and honest. Continue to show concern to the patient no matter how the patient acts towards you.
But if you are really an introvert or someone who is really shy, I have some other tips that I am working on myself.
- Join small organizations. In my case, I joined Saline Group which a Christian group in school. I also joined Cebu Blogging Community. I believe that through this, I will be able to develop confidence. I will be able to train myself interacting with other people.
- Study. Before you enter the room, make sure that you have read the assigned topic so that you really know what you are doing and you will be able to come up with your differential diagnosis right away.
- Go out. I rarely go to malls unless a friend will invite me. Go out from your comfort zone and embrace what is outside of it. Go out and eat alone, watch movie alone or walk home alone
- Pray. Don't stop praying even though you are in the verge of giving up in life or in MedSchool. Alyways remember that 90% faith, 10% personal.
But always remember what tip fits you because not all tactics are available to everyone.