Being on the receiving end of health services.


I always find it a bit of an eye-opener whenever I go for any healthcare treatment. I try and consider what that healthcare professional does and how that makes me feel so I can reflect on that for my own practice. I’m always of the opinion that you should treat people how you want to be treated.

So yesterday I went to the dentist for my annual check-up. I have a new dentist as my one who I saw from childhood has retired (sob). I’m not nervous about going the dentist but I’d had the same one for over twenty years, I realised, sitting in the waiting room, that I was apprehensive. Was I not scared of the dentist because I’d had such a good one who I had built up an massive amount of trust? It’s always worth considering that a person may be nervous seeing you so it’s important to try and put the person at ease from the very beginning. So here we go.

First impressions made me think that  he seemed like a nice chap as he came down to the waiting room to pick me up rather than the nerve racking ‘voice of doom’ over the tannoy. It certainly bridged the divide between patient and expert. OK dentist chap, I’m in.

First strike, He got my title wrong, I’m as Ms. which slightly annoys me that people don’t take the time to read it on their notes. I’d rather they just called me by my first name, if they weren’t sure. Although I appreciate that this can differ with generations and culture. However he redeemed himself pretty quickly as he used some nice settling-in techniques. He showed me in a friendly style where I can put my bag and coat and asking me to take a seat. I felt myself relax and take a deep breath. Eye contact was a bit lacking and it made me reflect how much eye contact and smiling develops rapport and makes me feel more comfortable. Remember that the small things that you do can mean a lot to others.

There were a couple of questions that he asked me that made me worried and that I had to ask him why he was asking that to put my mind at rest. If I hadn’t I would have been worrying what horrors that he seen in my mouth. This made me reflect that it’s important to explain the reason why you are asking any questions to the patient.

For example;

Dentist:”do you eat sugary snacks between meals?”

Me: “er, well yeah, sometimes. Why? Is there something wrong with my teeth?”

Dentist: “No, you’ve got good oral hygiene, just remember not to do it too often”

Anyway it only takes ten minutes to look at my gnashers and, rather than firing me out as soon as the check up had been performed, he addressed any questions or concerns that I had made me feel that I had been listened to in the short space of time we had.

From this brief, and some would consider unimportant, interaction I have learned to:

  • Pick people up from the waiting room with a smile
  • Check that I have got their title right
  • Establish eye contact from very early on
  • Settle people into their appointment: where do they sit? Where can their relatives sit? where can they put their coat and bags? Introduce myself and explain what I’m going to do.
  • Explain why I’m asking questions and encourage them to ask questions if they are not sure why I’m asking particular things
  • Make the time to address any questions that they have
  • Build trust

Great news is, they are such small things which don’t require a degree to achieve. It’s something that I can be doing from day one of placement. No matter how small the healthcare interaction is, because it’s my health  I’m naturally concerned. It’s amazing that something as small or seemingly routine as a dental check up could make people feel vulnerable.  It made me think that all the small touches can make a massive difference to the experience and I will definitely consider this when I am seeing patients in the future.

I would strongly recommend any health professional to reflect on any health experience that they have to be able to empathise with patients. We get used to seeing things as routine that I think sometimes we almost forget that people arrive at our appointments with a whole host of emotions.


3 thoughts on “Being on the receiving end of health services.

  1. sorry if this doesn’t apply as I haven’t read all your posts yet- just a quick thought.
    Have you looked at any models of reflection? I find them really helpful in my practice (also an OT) to guide my thoughts and reflections- I tend to use Gibbs as its quite simple but maybe this blog could be an opportunity to trial different ones and see which you like best.

    • Thanks for your comments Claire. I think sometimes we need a little reminder. I know if we could all slow down a bit we probably wouldn’t need a reminder! We are all under so much pressure to be efficient it can get lost . Thanks for reading the blog. Best wishes.

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