Communication with Patients

by Michael_Koger

Physicians acquire many skills over the years when they interview clients, and this is especially important when patients demand certain things.

On occasion, doctors and other hospital staff interact with individuals who challenge what the clinician recommends. This may be because the person has researched his or her own illness on the Internet or other mass media such as television. The result is insistence that certain diagnostic tests or other procedures take place [1].

Some have personality disorders, and they will question the health care provider because they do not know how to interpret information that appears on websites of various organizations. These individuals can be quite confrontational and hostile. If the clinician is not sensitive, he or she may become defensive. With time, the team members experience burnout and begin to suffer from anxiety or depression [1].

It is important that hospital staff realize that some of these people are fearful and worry a lot about whether they will continue to be in control of their situation [1].

Management of Hostile Clients

     In some instances, people believe they have a serious condition such as cancer, and they intensely research the disease.  In a sense, they become experts about it and thus make a lengthy presentation to the doctor.  Moreover, they may want to know about complementary therapy and expect hospital staff to explain why such methods are not part of the treatment plan [1].

     Naturally, the clinician can recommend Internet websites that contain reputable material [1].

     The medical staff must also communicate whenever clients express that they do not want to see students, residents, or other house staff.  In these situations, the attending physician can explain that he or she does interact with employees in training about events that occur during the hospital stay [1]. 

     Some hospital workers believe that it is possible to allay anxiety with an admission of error.  In other words, when the staff tells the patient that they make a mistake or apologizes for something, he or she will be less hostile.  At the same time, one must keep in mind that such statements of error can surface months or years later should the situation progress to malpractice litigation [1].

     Hospital employees can do much to prevent burnout.  This may include regular physical exercise and healthy dietary habits.  Relaxation exercises, which entail deep breathing and meditation, are beneficial as well.  Additionally, physicians can compliment their residents.  They will also learn to manage their own anxiety and depression when they maintain contact with family members and celebrate positive events in their lives [1]. 


     The development of good bedside manner occurs over a period of many years as providers continue to learn how to manage interactions with patients and staff.


  1. Schuermeyer, I., Sieke, E., Dickstein, L. et al.  (2017).  Patients with challenging behaviors:  Communication strategies.  Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 84, 535-542.
  2. The photo shows a library at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. Copyright 2017.  Michael Koger, Sr.  All rights reserved.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and one should not use it for diagnosis or treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.


Updated: 08/17/2017, Michael_Koger
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