Can Your Doctor’s Bedside Manner Impact Your Health? Yes!

Nice doctors are good for your health!

Nobody likes to be treated rudely, yet many of us put up with doctors who dismiss our concerns, don’t empathize with us, won’t look us in the eye, and/or rush us along. It’s easy to tell ourselves that as long as we are getting good care, it’s okay to put with a doctor with less than ideal bedside manners. However, we shouldn’t be so fast to dismiss the value of kindness in the doctor-patient relationship. Can your doctor’s bedside manner impact your health?

Can kindness heal?

According to a Huff Post article by Dr. James Doty, a new body of evidence suggests that when we connect with others our physiology improves.  Studies have found that kindness, compassion and empathy actually have a significant effect on healing.  When patients are stressed and anxious, their immune function and wound healing capabilities are negatively impacted.

Conversely, Dr. Doty reports that studies have found that when nurses and doctors show empathy for a patient, by listening, connecting and validating their feelings, patients are likely to be less anxious, which leads to quicker recoveries from a wide range of conditions, including surgery.

Dr. Doty explains that this is a two way street – kindness towards medical staff by patients can positively impact doctors and nurses.

What can you do if your doctor isn’t kind?

Roberta Carson of Zaggo suggests:

  • If possible, find another doctor if your doctor is rude or insensitive.  Don’t worry about hurting his/her feelings – your health may depend on your switching.
  • If you absolutely cannot switch doctors due to geographic or other limitations, try to improve your relationship with your doctor:
    • Treat your doctor with kindness – it might improve his/her attitude.
    • Speak with your doctor about your feelings regarding the way you are being treated.
    • Consider speaking with the doctor’s boss – hospitals and doctors are very concerned with patient satisfaction and are likely to take your complaints seriously.
  • Work to reduce your stress and anxiety.  Some suggestions:
    • Speak with a mental health professional.  One option: ask your doctor’s office if there are clinical social workers at your hospital with whom you can meet.
    • Reach out to others for help – don’t try to manage everything yourself.
    • Try to spend as much time as possible “not being a patient”.  Visit with friends, watch a movie, read a book, get outside, etc.
    • Laughing is actually good for you.  Watch funny TV shows or movies, listen to comedians (live or recorded), read a funny book. etc.
    • Do meditation, yoga and/or other stress reducing practices.
    • Join a support group for patients who share your condition.
    • Try to exercise, get plenty of sleep and eat well.

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