When Kat Evans came and spoke at DFTB17 on the state of emergency medicine in South Africa she was all abuzz about this new conference that the badEM crew were going to put on. As she had made the effort and travelled all the way to Australia I thought it only right to return the favour. I’d said that I was happy to speak about “anything paediatric” but I think the team only read the word “anything”.
I’d often written about the importance of the soft skills in medicine but to talk about “How to be kind” and in just 15 minutes? That was a real challenge.
So I delved into the literature about the benefits of kindness – to ourselves and to others. I found out how it made us live longer, healthier and happy lives and I came up with a way to frame it so we could all practice a little kindness every day.
Put your notes down and pay attention to the person in front of you. Commit to giving them your time and attention.
Actually look at your patient – look them in the eyes. We make hundreds of non-verbal cues every minute. If you don’t look at them then you won’t see them.
Don’t interrupt. Doctors generally interrupt their patients within 18 seconds of the start of the consultation. Try to listen without judgement, allow the patient to talk out their piece and clarify your understanding of the situation.
Everyone has a story to tell. To most of our patients this visit to the doctors is the most important thing that will happen to them this year, if ever. Try and put yourself in their place.
Just by doing these four things then we can be a little kinder – to our patients, to ourselves and to our partners.
Watch the full presentation from the conference below!
If you want to know more then you can read my blog posts on the why and how of kindness over at www.dontforgetthebubbles.com
Andy Tagg is an Emergency Physician with a special interest in education and lifelong learning. Andy is one of the founding members of the excellent pediatric blog Don’t Forget The Bubbles. Read more from Andy here.