Wednesday, May 9, 2012

See no evil...

I'm half-way through one of the hardest modules I've done so far, and it involves seeing patients who have difficulties on top of those relevant to the module I'm currently doing. One of the patients I saw last week was visually impaired - very visually impaired - and this really tested my abilities to communicate effectively.

Communication in daily life used to be a big challenge for me; eye contact and body language can convey a lot of information to people, and I've spent the last two years working on getting these things just right. I have been concentrating on these things, rather than the 'attentive listening' ('um's and 'ah's at the right times) because they are things you can see, but also because I've always thought that 'actions speak louder than words', as the idiom goes. Plus I've always found those random noises that are meant to indicate that you're listening can be quite intrusive, and they always make me wonder if the person I'm talking to is done listening when I'm on the receiving end of them.

But, obviously, when your patient can't see your nods of agreement and such, this presents new problems of how to communicate effectively. Luckily (for me), this patient had his wife with him so I didn't have to deal with all the difficulties myself, such as actually getting him into the doctor's office and onto a chair.

When it came to getting a medical history from this guy, I started in the usual way, after getting the cause of the sight issue out of the way so it wasn't a distraction for the rest of the consultation. I then continued in the same way I would have if I were speaking to any other patient - I tried making regular eye contact and was conscious to make sure he could tell I was listening by making the positive reinforcing sounds I hate so much.

In the end, this history wasn't as challenging as I thought it would be, and, truth be told, I have been in more challenging situations.  Of course, this is all easy enough to say in hindsight!  The doctor who was sat in with us was happy with how I conducted the consultation, and that was enough to make my day.

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