A couple of weeks ago I was struck down by what I initially thought was a bad case of flu. What it actually turned out to be was cellulitis in my left leg which eventually landed me a bed in my local Hospital. I will say at the start of this article the standard of care I received was excellent, I have no complaints over that at all. As I had no option but to lie still and do very little for a period of time, it gave me a chance to watch another profession at work and witness one individual who demonstrated a masterclass in dealing with patients and colleagues. By the way, I wouldn’t recommend you follow the same path to witness the same things. Cellulitis is painful!

I have been in hospital as a patient, thankfully only on a couple of occasions. Sadly, I have had cause to visit others in hospital hundreds of times (literally), due to long term sickness amongst relatives. I have been able to give some thought to what works and doesn’t work in terms of staff/patient/relative interaction over the years and admit I have got it wrong myself as a relative on several occasions.

As in any other walk of life, some people are good at interacting with people, some struggle with this area. Much of the same lessons learnt by watching professionals in one line of work are transferable to the general business sector, as none of it is rocket science or just solely applicable to the medical sector.

On my recent inpatient experience, there was one Doctor who seemed to have a knack of establishing a rapport with patients very quickly. This is what he did that was different (or more expertly executed) than most of the other doctors I have met either as a patient or visitor:

i) Not only did he introduce himself to the patient as soon as he encountered them, he introduced the other medical staff with him and explained both what his role was and that of his colleagues.
ii) He shook hands with the patients where possible (carefully washing hands between each encounter naturally) and established eye contact.
iii) He asked the patient what their name was and why they were in hospital. He listened to the answers. I think he did the latter to get another angle on the situation rather than just relying on what he was told by his colleagues.
iv) This is the most important thing he did and he did this SO much better than other Consultants and Doctors I have witnessed. He explained to the patient (not to the other staff) what it was that he/they thought was wrong with them, what they were going to do and what the plan was in terms of immediate and medium-term treatment strategies. He said it clearly and didn’t patronise the patient.
v) He then took questions, listened to what they actually asked and not what he thought they asked and if he couldn’t answer them there and then made sure the patient got an answer within a specified time period.

So, you may be thinking, what is so radical and special about that? Well, in the space of 5 minutes or so, that Doctor had managed to establish a bond of trust with the patient by demonstrating he/they knew what was going on and had a plan how to deal with it. He established a two way communication process and demonstrated an understanding that the party he was dealing with was probably feeling insecure over their situation and needed empowering with some information he/she then could pass on to other family members when they asked them what was going on.

He also involved the patient by asking their name and what they thought was wrong with them. Their opinion was not undervalued or disregarded. What he also did was provide a framework for how long the patient was likely to be there. No one likes uncertainty, particularly if they have work or family responsibilities they need to keep up to date and return to.

That Doctor stood out even amongst other staff who were doing an excellent job in their own areas. After he moved on from a patient, practically everyone in the Ward (and their relatives if they were there at the time) said something complimentary about him and the encounter. He left an impression that boosted the confidence of the patient and left everyone feeling positive about the way their treatment was going. That is what we should all be striving for in our encounters with new and existing clients. We not only want to be seen as experts in our own areas but we need to be seen to be the person our clients want to talk to and for them to come away after an encounter with us feeling empowered and enthused.

In the great ‘hospital’ of business, you have a choice. You can be the Consultant who is always out on the golf course and rarely sees his patients, or you can be the Consultant who is the go-to person in your field, the one the patients look forward to seeing approaching their bed.  The skills to be that person are not difficult to master but so many people get it wrong or are happy to be the doctor you forget once you leave the hospital.

At rhw Solicitors, we try to be the go-to consultants in our area. If we can add value and give some empowerment from time spent with our lawyers we will. If clients have confidence, then they tend to bring back repeat business to you further down the line. Engage, inform and listen.

Chris Hunter – October 2017