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Maximizing Your Teaching Moments

During each clinical encounter, there are moments that arise naturally as ideal "teaching moments." Here’s a quick summary of how to apply the ideas to a typical patient encounter to build trust and compliance.

Man in exam room talking to healthcare provider.

As you say hello

  • As you enter the room, greet the patient by name. Introduce yourself as needed.

  • Acknowledge any family members who are present by making eye contact.

  • Acknowledge the wait if there was one.

  • Ask an open-ended question about the reason for the visit to get a sense of the patient’s mindset and emotional state.

  • If a patient has several reasons for the visit, prioritize them together. This way you can focus on dealing with the primary concern first.

As you ask questions

  • Keep eye contact and listen for potential barriers to successful treatment. Do you need to call for a translator or chaperone?

  • Show your empathy for a patient’s situation. Acknowledge their emotional state. This validates the patient’s concern or fear.

  • Try to frame your dialog using a patient’s own words and level of medical understanding.

As you explain

  • Keep a clear focus on the diagnosis, procedure, self-care, or other information you’re delivering.

  • Watch for changes in the patient’s body language or voice that signal fear or incomprehension. Adjust your explanation accordingly.

  • Give your reasons for tests, treatment, or medicine to encourage a patient’s sense of working together. Ask the patient if they have questions. Be patient.

  • Use patient education materials fitting the patient's literacy level to reinforce your message. Reviewing the patient's own previous test results with them should personalize your recommendations and help the patients understand their need to carry out the care plan.

Before a patient leaves

  • Get a repeat demonstration of skills a patient needs to master.

  • Ask an open-ended question to check their understanding of skills. Assure yourself that the patient and their family members will be able to get any online materials you have identified that would be helpful, including the online platform your healthcare system gives for getting lab test results and making follow-up appointments. Give them your system's IT contact information if they need assistance getting access established.

  • Clearly state 1 achievable goal a patient can work toward before the next visit. This can help your visits feel successful.

  • Provide a polite closure to your appointment. This can be something simple, like "Nice to see you again," or We'll see you again in 3 months." This helps the person feel appreciated.

After the visit

  • You or a staff member can note in a patient’s chart any booklets, videos, or other materials you’ve given out. This can make follow-up more focused, aid informed consent, or improve patient understanding.

  • You might also note any communication challenges. These include low-literacy skills (or highly literate Internet skills) to help the next visit go more smoothly for you and the staff.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2022
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