As an Audiology Assistant, one of the more important parts of what your job entails is working alongside patients. By using focused questions and simple conversations to explore more about your patient and their needs, you will be able to work alongside them and show them what a patient-oriented approach truly looks like.The goals of exploring with your patient are:
To manage the appointment
To discover the patient’s wants and needs
To help the patient feel “heard”
Manage the Appointment
Patients love to talk, especially when we have previously worked hard to establish a relationship with them. If given the opportunity, they will tell you about their grand kids, their garden, their recent trip and their prostate. All of these stories are good stories to hear. They will help us relate to our patients as people and understand what is important to them. However, if you do not ask directed questions in the beginning of the appointment, patient stories can derail your appointment fairly quickly and what was scheduled as a quick 15 minute appointment can easily become 30. Learning to manage the appointment takes time, and experience is the best teacher. But managing your schedule and making sure that you honor each patient’s time is an important skill to focus on developing from your very first patient interaction.
Discover The Patient’s Wants and Needs
Once you have greeted your patient and made them comfortable in the exam room, the real work begins. During the beginning phase of the appointment, you will build the foundation for making a professional recommendation, to establish trust and to build your credibility.
To do so, it is important that you ask open-ended questions. These are questions that begin with “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” “how” or “tell me” and will help to determine what the patient “wants” (his hearing aid isn’t working) or what he “needs” (to have his hearing checked). Some good questions to ask are:
What can I do to help you today?
Did something in particular happen to bring you in today?
Is there anything else I can do for you?
How do you feel you are hearing lately?
How are your hearing aids working for you?
Help the Patient Feel Heard
When patients feel heard, they build more trust in you and with the clinic in general. As a result, the things you say and suggest will hold more weight. By listening, you can also identify things that are below the surface, which may not be readily apparent in the beginning.
You can help a patient feel heard by using attentive nonverbal communication strategies. These include warm, accepting eye contact, facing the patient with arms uncrossed and using an inviting facial expression. A smile goes a long way! Then, you can practice what is called Active Listening.
Active Listening is a way of hearing what a person says and feels and reflecting that information back to them. Its goal is to listen to the whole person and provide him or her with empathetic understanding. It is the skill of paying gentle, compassionate attention to what has been said or implied. When you listen in this way to patients, you are simply trying to reflect the other person's feelings and understand the deeper meaning behind their words, which helps them feel heard and understood. You don't analyze, interpret, judge, or give advice when actively listening. When patients are listened to in this way, they are less anxious, feel more connected to you as their provider and are more likely to accept the recommendations you make. The basics for good communication are simple to learn, do not take up much appointment time and can significantly change the quality of the patient's experience.
Give it a try.