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Start > Resource centre > Articles > What to tell the doctor Part 1

Do you get tongue-tied at the doctor's? Do you dry up when you enter the consulting room? What do you say when you sit down by the doctor's desk?

Doctors have a similar problem: what to say to patients. To start the consultation with "How are you?" is just no use. Whenever I've tried that opening gambit, "very well, thank you" has been the instant response - followed by a pause. Then an embarrassed "Well no, I wouldn't be here if I was" "What is the matter with you?"; is another non-starter from the doctor's point of view. It brings forth the reply: "That's what I wanted you to tell me!" or "You're the doctor, not me. I don't know what is wrong."

Over the years, I've opted for a greeting such as, "Good morning, Mr Smith. What can I do for you?" Even this goes wrong sometimes, but at least it leads to fewer hiccups getting the consultative ball going backwards and forwards, from patient to doctor.

Many times, just as I think I've successfully sorted out their problem, my patient produces another one, like a magician bringing rabbits out of a hat, but these are different animals each time! At the rate medical matters can be solved, only a couple of them can be discussed before the consultation runs out of time; and I'm conscious that there are others waiting their turn, and getting worked up about their chat with the doctor. Dilemma. What to do now?

If I curtail the consultation abruptly, my patient will feel that they have had a raw deal, and that the doctor doesn't care, or isn't interested.

Teacher: Michael
Many articles taken from 'A word with the doctor', by Dr. John Windsor.


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