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.