J’aime les dents
This week, our man from Anfield considers the importance of rapport with patients.
Right. I must open this article with an admission. I am scared of the dentist. I know… For a man who is in his final year of dental school, this sounds ridiculous. Now that you have all stitched your sides back together after my pathetic confession, there's more: I wasn't scared of the dentist until I started dental school. Apart from enjoying making myself look silly and giving all of you lovely readers a chuckle, why on Earth would I admit to this?
There's a good reason. I believe that my fear of the dentist helps me to deal with nervous patients - to a massive extent. Why? That's a very good question. When I greet someone in the waiting room and they're sat there - fidgeting, clammy, looking uneasy, unsure about what they're about to be put through - I know exactly how they feel.
In instances like this - and it has happened several times, I hasten to add - I’ve been able to build such a connection and profound rapport with patients that they have refused to be treated in future by anyone but myself. Not only is that great for my own confidence but, much more importantly, it means that what was perceived by the patient as something terribly unpleasant has actually turned out to be a humorous, relaxing, laid-back experience: a friendly Scouser having a quick look at their toothy pegs, but also spending some time getting to know them as a person to whom those teeth happen to be attached and putting them at ease.
Admittedly there's been a fair bit of blowing my own trumpet in this article, but the purpose is to show that it's one thing being a brilliant diagnostician, or even an adept surgeon, but without your patients feeling like they can trust, respect and, hopefully, like you, your practicing life will not be enriched in the way it should be. The beauty of dentistry is that we occupy a privileged position that allows us to meet new people every day and hear their 'story’, so I would strongly recommend spending some time getting to know your patients, as I'm sure you'll enjoy what you do a lot more.
Evidence suggests that building rapport with patients is likely to increase compliance when you are trying to elicit behavioural change; we humans, whether we like to admit it or not, are always searching for the approval of our peers and those close to us, so wouldn't it be great to be the dentist whose patients don't want to let them down?
'Patients don't care how much you know until they know how much you care’