The PWD-HCP Connection

It’s not uncommon to hear or read about the frustrations some people with diabetes (PWD) have with their health care providers (HCP). As a nurse practitioner specializing in diabetes care, I believe that it is important for PWD and their HCP to feel a connection or bond between each other. PWD should not dread coming to see you because they feel like they will be lectured, put down, or feel like no one is listening to them.

The other day, one of my patients told me that she never thought she would like coming in for medical appointments, but she finds herself looking forward to them. Why? There are three basic principles that I believe will allow for a successful connection with patients:

1) Listen to your patients. This doesn’t mean listen while you are intently staring at a computer charting. Look at your patients and listen to what they have to say; take in non-verbal cues that can offer more to their story.

2) Get to know your patient outside of their diagnosis. I make it a point to try and ask my patient at least one question about them beyond why they are seeing me. Tell me what you do for work? What do you like to do for fun? Getting to know someone outside of their clinical diagnosis can help to create a bond; a connection. Patients will know that you care about them when you really get to know them. Often times, knowing about work schedules, hobbies, and other personal information is pertinent to treating diabetes, which can ultimately be helpful clinically.

3) Get involved with something that you and your patients care about. Within my practice, I became concerned about a handful of patients with type 1 diabetes who felt isolated; they didn’t know anyone else with this condition. I desperately wanted them to meet each other to create a bond and/or connection. Earlier this year, a colleague and I developed the Diabetes Mixer, a social networking event for individuals with type 1. This was very successful in terms of attendees. A few weeks after the first Diabetes Mixer, one of my patients, who also attended the event, told me, “I don’t feel like such a weirdo anymore.” To me, this comment was priceless. The patient felt connected to others because of an event I helped organize, which in turn, helped better connect that patient to me.

If you have tried these tactics and still aren’t successfully connecting to your patient(s), perhaps there is a personality or goal mismatch. It happens to everyone, even me. Know when you aren’t getting through to your patient, and refer them to someone that might be a better fit for their health care needs. After all, its all about the patient(s), not us.


4 thoughts on “The PWD-HCP Connection

  1. Michelle

    Great post. Having that relationship is really nice. I’ve been lucky because my diabetic doctor is actually a member at the tennis facility where I teach and play so I see her fairly regularly. She and her friend like to say they play a game called Lennis (Lame Tennis) and they are the world’s premiere lennis players. 🙂 But it is nice because I have gotten to know them — in fact I did a few lessons with them — and they have the chance to get to know me a little. And if I happen to have a quick question about my diabetes she is always willing to talk.


    • Damon,
      It’s great that you have a good relationship with your provider, I’m so happy to hear that. I’ve never heard of Lennis before, I might have to take that up since I don’t know how to play regular tennis!

  2. I came across your blog and found some interesting posts on it, up until I read this one. As a type 1 diabetic for over 20 years, I was kinda offended by the “PWD” comment. Sure, I am a person with diabetes, but is that what I am soley identified as? Am I not first and foremost an intellegent and spiritual woman who loves her family and enjoys her successful career – and who manages her diabetes everyday? I am proud of living with this disease and managing it successfully for this long, but my diabetes can only define and control my life to the extent I let it.

    Sorry, but if you were my health care provider and referred to me as a “PWD” when I first diagnosed, I would have felt even worse about myself. It’s just something to keep in mind with the sensitive and newly diagnosed diabetics and any other diabetics who don’t soley want to be defined by their disease.

    • Hello Science&MathLover88, thanks for commenting. I apologize if I offended you or anyone else by the use of “PWD”. I have the utmost respect for my patients, I never call them “PWD”, nor do I call them diabetic. I pride myself in getting to know my patients beyond why they are seeing me in the clinic. My patients are amazing writers, business owners, homemakers, students, teachers, athletes and more. Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention, I will be more sensitive to this matter in the future.

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