Improper Bedside Manners

Proper bedside manner is key (especially when delivering bad news), yet some medical professionals seem to lack a certain level of empathy. Modern Manners Guy gives the medical profession a prescription for good bedside manners.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #305

Dear Unmannerly Doctors and Medical Professionals (the small percentage of you, that is),

Please don’t think I’m trying to call you out for a lack of proper bedside manner, but in this episode, I'll be talking about some key elements of a patient’s needs that must be addressed. These are things I think are important because as the patient, we are in your hands... and often, scared out of our minds!>

Please don’t take this personally--after all, the doctor-patient relationship is a two-way street. However, on our end we are moving a bit slower, while trying to navigate the roads of our health. So bear with me.

Some patients love a happy-go-lucky, laid back style in their doctors, while others like a more straightforward, “here are the facts” approach. Both are fine styles to practice, but I think that some medical professionals still don’t quite understand how their manner might affect the person on the other side of the table.

So, with that in mind, check out my top 3 quick and dirty tips for proper doctor etiquette.

Tip #1: You’re a Doctor...Not a Comedian

A Modern Manners Guy Facebook friend named Bill told me a rather uncomfortable story about a recent doctor visit regarding severe back pain. Bill’s diagnosis was a herniated disc, and he was told that he would be bed ridden for two weeks minimum (per the doctor’s orders.) Bill was devastated for two reasons: one, as a contractor, his job involves lifting, bending, and building, so he would essentially be out of work for however long the doctor said. Secondly, he had to cancel a family camping trip he had been planning for eight months.

So when Bill received the bad news, Dr. Hilarious figured he’d shine some much need comic relief to the situation. He said things like, “Eh, no big deal, you can relax on your couch and watch TV all day instead of working!", and “Maybe you’ll find a new career that won’t have the same damage to your back!” And let's not forget, “Camping? Please, I’d rather live on the street!” Oh, Dr. Hilarious, you comedian, you--you sure know how to make a situation even worse.

Here’s the deal; receiving bad news stinks. Even if there is a silver lining (like being able to hang out on the couch all day), no one wants to hear bad news being delivered. Medical professionals tend to see the same cases over and over again, so a big deal to us is often nothing to them.

It's like when I come to New York to meet my editor and ask her if we can go to Times Square; she rolls her eyes like I am crazy, because after all, she’s seen it millions of times. To my editor, what I think is a big deal is everyday life. Same thing as the doctors and the funny business.

When patient has an issue that affects their everyday life, the last thing they want to do is hear jokes about it. As much as I am a believer in the healing power of humor, there is a time and place for everything, and the day you get bad news is surely not one of them. Then again, have you heard the one about the appendectomy? You’ll love it…


About the Author

Richie Frieman

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