Once you have introduced yourself, sit down. During discharge interviews with patient advocates at our hospital, patients almost always commented favorably if their physicians had done this. Most practice management consultants say it’s inefficient and you should never sit when seeing a patient in the office. They are wrong! Even if it is just a sore throat, sit down. In the hospital it is even more important. If there is no chair in the room, go to the nurses station and bring one back. This says to the patient, “You are important, and right now you are the sole focus of my attention.” You can sit on the edge of the bed, but this is awkward and, in my case, I invariably disturbed the leg with the broken hip.
Studies have shown that you spend no more time when you sit while talking to the patient than when you remain standing, looming over them. These same studies have shown that the patient perceives that you have stayed much longer than you actually have.
When you are running behind, try to avoid fidgeting, looking at your watch or giving other nonverbal signals that you are in a rush. “I have had patients tell me that certain physicians who saw them seemed so eager to get out of the room that a family member would stand in the door to prevent them from bolting until they had answered all of their questions. The memory of a hurried doctor will linger and will most likely be passed on to others, regardless of the outcome of the illness.