Friday, October 10, 2014


Every day most of us have the same conversations, over and over again: “What brings you in today?” “How was your weekend?” “How about this weather we’re having?”

I was lucky to work with a colleague whom I called the “patient whisperer.” He always seemed to know the right thing to say. When patients would ask if we could put them to sleep, which we didn’t offer at our office, he would say, “We have a sledgehammer in the back. Otherwise you would need to go somewhere else for that.” He also had a very contagious laugh that got him out of trouble if he ever said anything that could be taken the wrong way.

I am a people person, but knowing what to say doesn’t always come so easily to me. After thinking about it, and a few trials and errors, here are a few icebreakers that I think anyone can implement to make their days a little less monotonous.

1. This first list is to be used with new patients only. Once you have a bit of a relationship with someone, it’s usually much easier to jump into things. Also, I do not recommend extending small talk if someone is in obvious pain. In these cases, the patient wants to get to the treatment just as much as you do. But for the nonemergency new patient, here are a few questions to break the ice:
  • What kind of work do you do?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • How long have you been retired?
  • Do you live near here?
  • What’s your favorite subject in school?
  • Do you play any sports? 

2. For established patients, you’ll need to rely more on memory, or a helpful assistant, but patients love to talk about their children, grandchildren, pets, or vacations. Try:
  • How was your trip?
  • What are your kids doing this summer?
  • How was your golf game last week?

3. When finishing up an appointment, it’s nice to get feedback and see where things can improve, so always make time to discuss the day’s treatment: 
  • Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to discuss?
  • Have I answered all of your questions today?

4. Patients with special needs should be treated like everyone else. I always speak directly to the patient, even if it is fairly obvious that the caregiver will be making the decisions; I want the patient to feel important. Patients with Down syndrome, for example, seem to respond well to the tell-show-do technique. I like to show them my “squirt gun and straw” before we “wash away the cavity bug.” A classmate of mine also showed me that the matrix band could be presented as a “bear-hug squeeze” as it does squeeze a little bit when placed. 

When in doubt, I try to emulate my friend, and smile and laugh as much as possible.
Sarah Meyer, DDS

1 comment:

Dr. Ilham Akraa said...

Having some small talk with your patients really is important. It helps build rapport.


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