"A physician, even if well versed in the knowledge of diseases and their treatments, doesn't try to enter into the heart of the patient by virtue of the light of their knowledge, they will not be able to properly heal the disease."
Charaka Sanhita, Sage Agnivesha
In classical Ayurveda, reaching the patient’s heart and gaining their trust is considered an essential skill in an Ayurvedic practitioner. The very first interaction between a practitioner and their patient plays a key role in defining the future of the patient's health as well as the practitioner's success in treating the problem.
A practitioner who is skilled in diagnosing a problem and has a gentle, comforting bedside manner ensures a better outcome from any therapy for their patients. A good bedside manner gets the patient to open up and offer valuable information about their health that can help you, as a practitioner, to finalize a line of treatment. It also helps the patient to trust the your advice and actually follow the recommended diet and lifestyle changes.
Developing an effective bedside manner depends on various aspects such as your:
- Physical appearance
- Body language
- Communication skills
- Observation skills
- Knowledge of Ayurveda
Here are a few suggestions to developing your own comforting and effective bedside manner!
1. Be (over) prepared for your consultations.
When you have a brand new patient, getting their full health history and doing any necessary examinations is a long process. To ensure efficient use of both your and your patient's time, make sure you send your client a detailed questionnaire for them to fill out before your consultation together. Once they send you their completed questionnaire, study the answers thoroughly and make notes of points you want to make, recommended changes and questions you want to ask.
2. Explain as much about Ayurveda and the process of healing as possible before the consultation.
Typically in the field of Ayurvedic medicine, a new client does not know what to expect in a consultation and what kinds of treatments will be recommended. Educating your clients in as much detail as they can handle through the whole process will build trust and help them relax.
Oftentimes as practitioners we have to discuss medical situations your client may feel embarrassed about. It can be uncomfortable for people to freely discuss these problems or ask advice about them in an open consultation room. To prevent this anxiety, ensure privacy. Hold your consultations in a closed, comfortable room so your client can relax while you examine an embarrassing skin rash or wound. Also explain in the beginning that it's safe to disclose any information regarding their health, the treatments and that your facility follows a strict doctor–patient confidentiality policy.
4. Have your clients explain their symptoms in a lot of detail.
Ayurveda needs as much detail as possible about symptoms so that as practitioners we can differentiate the different Doshas involved. Ayurveda seeks the root cause. To discover this, you will probably have to dig deep into a client’s history, including emotional as well as physical. Everything is important. Encourage your client to explain their life in detail. If this would take too much time, you can ask a client to write it down and send it to you along with their questionnaire. This will also let the client know that you are genuinely concerned and interested.
5. Listen carefully.
Follow this simple process with each comment and question your client has: listen, understand, confirm and write down. Each client will use different words to explain the same symptoms or condition. Repeat back what they say to you to make sure you're both on the same page, and then make note of the symptoms and treatments. This will build your client's confidence in you.
6. Monitory your own body language.
Don't forget the client is constantly looking for your response, even if you are not talking. When listening to them talk or examining them, make sure you are comfortable too. Sit up straight and make sure you're not frowning or zoning out. Leaning back in your chair and crossing your hands, for example, may give out the signal that you are not interested or holding something back. Nod when listening as gesture of understanding.
7. Empathize and always offer positivity and hope.
Remember that you are an authority in your field. Your assurance and confidence in Ayurveda and what you have learned means a lot to your clients. At the same time, do not give false hope or guarantee the outcome.
8. Properly handle personal or embarrassing questions and comments.
Confirm with the client beforehand that they are willing to answer personal questions about their mental, physical and emotional state. Remind them that everything they say is completely private, confidential and essential for diagnoses. For example, in hormonal disorders related to infertility, details of their sexual relationship are important to analyse the shukra dhatu in both men and women. Make sure they understand the details of their sex life are for medical reasons.
9. When conducting physical examinations...
Describe in detail the what will happen and the purpose for each physical examination. For example, "I need to examine your tongue. Stick it out as much as possible to help me assess the state of your digestion." Let your client know if the examination may be painful and assure them that you will try to make it less so. If it requires a specific body position like kneeling, ask the client if he is comfortable. In some patients that have asthma, for example, lying down effects their breathing and can become uncomfortable.
10. Interpretation and counseling
Making diagnoses are challenging. You have to disclose the severity and probable progress of the disease. Always strive to use positive language rather than negative. For example, instead of saying "You will not get good results if you don’t follow the diet," say "Following the advised diet will help you recover sooner."
If you have to tell that a disease is in an advanced stage and needs long term treatment, remind them that you will be there to help them and walk them through all the phases. Most of the time people come to Ayurveda after trying modern medicine and are frustrated that they are not getting positive results in spite of doing so many things. Counseling plays a key role in the life of an Ayurvedic practitioner. Tell your clients to give their bodies and Ayurveda a real chance. Explain, in great detail, how the treatments work. That will help them understand and believe in you.
An excellent bedside manner is key to reach the client's heart and ensure a better outcome from the treatments. Focus on building trust in the client, in yourself and in the healing art of Ayurveda!
Many blessings for the New Year,