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Posted: 3/5/2018 2:17:09 PM

Never Say These Words to Your Patients

Medical assistants (MAs) are usually the first and last person to see patients when they visit the physician's office. The way MAs communicate with patients can make or break their level of engagement while receiving medical services.

Many factors affect the way medical assistants speak with their patients. They may be tired or, at times, feel emotional. There may be situations where they risk becoming too casual. Sometimes, they have to handle difficult patients. Whatever the case, they are expected to communicate with patients professionally and respectfully.

Here are some things MAs should never say to their patients:

1. False reassurances:

“Everything’s going to be fine.”
“There’s nothing to worry about.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing.”
“You’ll be ok soon.”
“Don’t worry.”

False reassurances are words that are meant to give hope or certainty even though the patient’s health condition is still undetermined. Although the main intention is perhaps preventing undue anxiety in a patient, these words eventually damage the patient's trust when the results of diagnostic tests are positive or when treatment fails and the prognosis is poor.

2. Expressions that are suggestive of errors:

“Oh, no!”
“I couldn’t find your lab results.”
“Something is off here.”

When patients come for a consult or treatment, they are usually anxious about their symptoms and complaints. When they are on the examination table or inside the treatment room, hearing these words triggers more anxiety, and even panic. They bring a flood of negative thoughts that send the patient’s trust down the drain. They may either withhold information or refuse treatment. If a mistake indeed happened, keep the patient safe and always refer to institutional policies on how to address medical errors.

3. Use of medical jargon and acronyms:

“Your pupils are equally reactive to light and accommodation.”
“There are ecchymoses near your costovertebral angles.”
“Have you had any more chest pains after your MI?” (myocardial infarction, or heart attack)

You must avoid using medical terms and acronyms when giving explanations to the patient. It confuses the patient, and they may reluctantly agree with you and pretend to understand for fear of being embarrassed.

4. Value judgments:

“You shouldn’t have done that.”
“If you followed doctor’s orders, none of this would have happened.”
“It’s your fault you had a relapse.”
“Why didn’t you come to us sooner?”

Passing value judgments on the patient can stir their feelings of guilt and cause distress. These negative feelings create a formidable wall between the medical assistant and the patient. After these words are spoken, there is a good chance that patients will not come back for their next consultation.

5. Suggestions that a divine being caused their poor health condition:

“God had a purpose when He allowed this to happen.”
“God would not give you more than you can handle.”
“Acknowledge that this is part of God’s plan for your life.”

Patients are unique individuals with their own set of beliefs, and MAs should not impose their belief system on them. These words prevent the patient from being proactive in self-care, as you are suggesting that their health problems are meant to be.

6. Asking patients if they understood what they have just been told:

“Do you understand?”
“Is everything clear?”

When you give instructions or explanations to patients, you naturally will want to know if they got the message right. But asking a closed-ended question at this point can make them nod in agreement even though their comprehension is questionable. Ask them instead to repeat the information you gave them.

7. Understating an anticipated unpleasant patient experience:

“This won’t hurt a bit.”
“It’s just a pinch.”

Pain tolerance is different for everybody, and it is disrespectful to say that a painful procedure will not hurt. This can spark anger or resentment in a person whose pain tolerance is low.

When medical assistants communicate with patients, they should always do so in a professional manner. However stressful the job is, or difficult the patient, medical assistants are expected to watch their words while still prioritizing patient’s needs.

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