In 2005 I was an intern in the ER at a private hospital in Mexico City.
This hospital received a lot of trauma patients and obviously had a significant number of trauma surgeons on staff. And one of them stood out above the rest. He may not have been the most skilled (which is not to say he wasn’t skilled!), but he was the patients’ favorite. And frankly, mine too.
I wanted to learn his secret, so I studied his consultations.
And these are the 3 things he always did:
He was confident
He never hesitated when speaking to patients.
Unlike other doctors who hedge their positions, he was assertive. He would come in and say: “Look. You have a broken ankle. It requires surgery. I know it sounds scary but the prognosis is really good.”
He never said stuff like “well, this kinda looks like…”, “in most cases…”, or “I think that this could be x”.
He always shared his plan
Most people want more information before letting someone they just met operate on them.
And that’s when he sealed the deal. He would explain to them what his plan was. And no, he would not list the 173 steps the surgery required.
He would just break the process into 3–4 big steps.
It sounded something like:
Your preop tests look good. The surgery will take about 90 minutes from beginning to end. We’ll use local anesthesia, so you won’t feel pain but you’ll be awake throughout. You’ll spend the night here and I’ll stop by in the morning. I’ll leave instructions for pain killers so you can get a good sleep tonight.
This is where I learned that patients don’t need every detail, they simply need to know that the doctor is the expert.
He spoke to patients in simple terms
He did not need to use medical jargon to impress patients.
He spoke to them in simple terms, using everyday words. His goal was to communicate a message to his patients, not impressing them with his knowledge.
By being assertive, having a plan, and speaking in simple terms, patients felt he was an expert and knew exactly what he was talking about. Most importantly, they knew they were in great hands.