Good Bedside Manners Make a Difference
Megan Malugani | Monster Contributing Writer
Opinions differ on whether bedside manner can be taught. “I think [it] can be taught, to an extent, but it does depend a little bit on the raw material,” Schneider says. “I think, ultimately, if you can get someone to appreciate the importance of compassion and coming to an understanding of a patient, they will be able to develop bedside manner. You can teach them some skills in terms of ways to say things and ways to approach difficult topics.” For example, physicians need to be reminded to eliminate medical jargon and check to make sure patients understand what they’re being told.
Medical students do receive some formal training in bedside manner, Schneider notes. During the first few years of medical school, students conduct practice physicals with volunteer patients or actors. The sessions are videotaped or audio taped, and students receive feedback on their approach to patients. Also, medical students are encouraged to observe practicing clinicians in action.
The bottom line is that health professionals with good bedside manners may be happier in their jobs, experts say. Mahoney, who has been at Children’s Memorial Hospital since 1984, says her most memorable experiences occurred during her days as a bedside nurse. “You really have an ability to impact patients’ and families’ experiences with your organization,” she says. “You can help them heal. Sometimes you feel you don’t have the time to sit and have conversations, but you can do little things. You can touch a child’s hand, make eye contact or acknowledge their emotions in 30 seconds.”