When I was 16, I went to the doctor after sustaining a knee injury during a summer basketball game. As soon as it happened, I knew something was not right. My parents took me to the emergency room, and I told them exactly what happened, “I was running down the court, then I planted my foot, and suddenly I heard a pop, like opening a soda can. After that I had the feeling that my kneecap moved out of place, and my leg feels like it will bend backwards.”
I think they took an x-ray and did a few tests, put me in an immobilization brace, and sent me back home. That was it. No diagnosis, no recommendation for future care. I didn’t know it at the time, but I told them exactly what was wrong with me in that sentence above. And nobody heard it. I had torn my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and after a summer of knowing things weren’t right, I pushed my parents, and they pushed the doctors for an MRI, which should have been done in the first place, and I finally had my diagnosis. The doctors who failed to diagnose me properly, forgot to do that one important thing…
The number one thing, in my opinion, that we can all do to be better doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, and any health related practitioner, is to truly listen to the patient. It is true what they said in school, that somewhere around 85% of the time, the patients will tell you exactly what the condition is they have and/or where the problem is coming from. Which makes our jobs a lot easier. It is also important for the practitioner to guide the patients to get out the most important information, and so that your 20 minute consultation doesn’t become an hour long.
Not only does diagnosing the patient become easier, the patient feels happier because someone actually listened to them, and the treatment becomes clearer. For those of you who think you already are a good listener, I challenge you to re-evaluate, and count the number of times you cut off one of your patients mid speech. I am definitely guilty of that. Point being, we can all be better.
Take time to hear people’s stories, really listen to what they describe without any judgement. Those extra 2 minutes might save you from missing something important, and they definitely will help you become a better practitioner.