ENT Undercover

Written by on January 31, 2013 in Insight - No comments

As an Undercover Patient, I begin my assessment in the lobby  of a hospital or a practice using all my senses. Since this is the ENT issue of Med Monthly, I’ll narrow my observations down to those three senses.


I understand the reason we have two ears and only one mouth, therefore I am reminded to listen twice as much as I speak.   Unfortunately, patients overhear the bad as well as the good.  Imagine being a patient and hearing screams from the room across the hall followed by a conversation that a child was accidentally given ears drops in her eyes!  This happened as I sat in an exam room, waiting to see a physician.  Would YOU want to continue waiting for your turn? While in the exam room or lobby, I would much rather hear conversations about new in-house procedures, what physicians are doing for the community and why the employee of the month was nominated.


After 34+ years in a health care career, I tend to be a bit “nosey” as an “Undercover Patient” asking questions and finding out all sorts of things the hospital or practice may or may not know about physicians, employees and more. Once I asked about a particular procedure and the appointment scheduler told me the physician was new to this procedure, only returning recently from a seminar on it.  The scheduler continued, telling me they had just hired a new nurse to assist him with this procedure and had turned an exam room into the procedure room. Although I enjoy hearing about the continuing education, I became a little reluctant to be scheduled as the first patient. (Nosey, yes: guinea pig, no) Employees should be kept informed and educated on what’s new, but should be educated about what is appropriate and inappropriate to share with the patient. It’s helpful to provide your staff with a script to guide them in explaining topics to patients.


“What does he think he is doing?  He made me so mad I could SCREAM!  I hate working with him!” It seems that “Voice Art” has become a lost art.  We should always choose our words carefully.  When patients overhear comments such as these spoken while they wait for their appointment, their imagination will conclude the remarks must be about their physician.  As humans, we will continue to make mistakes, however words spoken by us are our choice.

Communication, both verbal and non-verbal in health care is very important in how the public perceives your practice.

Healthcare professionals allow their heart to guide them by listening to each patient with a desire to hear their story, looking them in the eye and connecting the dots before choosing their words. Using these senses will help to build patient / physician relationships even stronger.  These are windows to a heart filled with compassion.  When kind, positive and encouraging words become the normal spoken throughout the facility, you become part of creating an environment in which your patients will be happy, employees will have more of a team approach and physicians will be able to take care of their patients.

We may not always know what others are hearing around us.   Perhaps we should come back to our senses:

We can use our EARS to hear what is being said throughout our facility.  It’s much easier to prevent problems than to correct them.  Listen for good news and acknowledge it when we hear it.

We should be “NOSEY” and ask our patients their opinion of our facility.  KNOW what their perception is and always have a plan of action and a desire to improve.

Start each day off right.  Acknowledge every person in a cheerful and professional tone.  Speaking kind and encouraging words to those around us helps to create a most positive working environment.

By Denise Price Thomas

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