4 ways medical students can improve patient communication

Communicating compassionately and effectively with patients is a key skill all providers need to learn, and the training begins in medical school.

Here are four tips from the American Medical Association:

1. Make a good first impression. There are several tasks providers need to complete during a clinical visit but listening in the first few minutes of meeting the patient, rather than jumping straight into the tasks, is very important. Medical students may miss critical information if they don't first listen carefully the patient. The AMA also said students should use body language to signal attentiveness and openness, for example, leaning toward the patient and making eye contact.

2. Ask for permission when using devices during a visit. When students use their smartphones or other devices during a clinical visit, patients may be insulted or feel ignored. Telling the patient that they are using their devices to find information relevant to the visit can help ensure that patients don't lose trust in their provider.

3. Speak plainly. Don't assume the patient or their family can understand medical jargon that is common to medical students. Even when patients nod or say yes, it does not mean they understand.Medical students must remember to use layman's terms when speaking to the patients.

4. Be collaborative with patients. Medical students will have to provide patients with constructive criticism at some point in their rotations, and starting these conversations with a collaborative spirit can help patients feel that you are working with them instead of telling them what to do. Medical students also can show their support by providing patients with educational materials and information about support groups.

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