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1.15 - Communicating With Patients

At all times, provide your patients with the basic conditions due to them as human beings as well as patients. Attention to important details such as addressing the patient by name and introducing yourself and any other person participating in the procedure is your duty as a person as well as a health care professional.  With the possible exception of small children, patients are not called by their first names or familiar endearments.  Use the title Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc. and the patient’s name unless they ask you specifically to do otherwise.

The patient should always be treated courteously and in a manner consistent with his or her age. Further, it is the patient’s right to have the procedure explained and to know what is expected of him/her.  Providing maximum privacy, comfort and safety for the patient and his/her personal belongings, and a clean and orderly environment are all important considerations that should never be overlooked.

Patients frequently need to talk and it is entirely appropriate for you to be an empathetic and encouraging listener. However, you should avoid becoming involved in discussion of the relative merits or failures of various physicians, hospitals, nurses, clinics or other health care professionals. It is unacceptable professional behavior to engage in gossip about other institutions or medical personnel.

You should not allow the patient to put you on the spot with respect to the details of his/her radiologic diagnosis or treatment being received.  In such instances, admit honestly that you are not the doctor and cannot assume that role in diagnosis or treatment.

Never put off a patient who has a desire to know what is his/her right to know.  If the information sought is within your power and authority to relate, then do so.  If it is not, then assist the patient in learning whom to contact and how to get the information and assistance he/she may need.  The limits and extent of your authority in these matters may vary from situation to situation and from discipline to discipline, but the basic requirement for all of us is to be prepared to deal with the patient’s questions with honesty, tact and humanity.  In this you share a common challenge with every other person in your field including your faculty, who have had many years of experience in such matters.  If you need help, ask them.

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