Patient 1 (Larry):
Patient 1 is a 72 year old Caucasian male. He has been admitted to the emergency room for chest pains. He is by himself and clearly frightened and confused.
Patient 2 (Kathy):
Patient 2 is a 27 year old African American female. She has come to the emergency room for a persistent cough accompanied by a low grade fever. She comes in with her boyfriend and several printouts from WebMD about what she thinks might be causing the cough. She is engaged in interaction with doctors and nurses, but is clearly starting to get a little snippy about how long she has been waiting.
In both cases the situation is the same, only the patient differs. Assume the attending physician is relatively overworked and under-rested with a team of even less rested first year residents. With both patients there will need to be follow up communication about patient progress after being discharged from the emergency room. Also assume both patients will be prescribed medication and be asked to adhere to specific medical protocol.
How would you communicate with these patients? What would be some similar approaches you would take to both patients? How would your approach to the two patients differ?
Before the situation can be controlled and ultimately resolved, first one must identify the potential issues that might arise in this scenario. There are many details that must be taken into account and simultaneously managed from the perspective of both the patients and the health professionals in order to render a tailored solution for this situation. These details consist of the patients ages, ethnicity/race, current presentment of symptoms, patient support (or lack thereof), patient expectations (i.e. the female patient clearly has an expectation to not wait for a long period of time), the patient’s broader perception of the provider-patient relationship (i.e. paternalistic or consumeristic viewpoints), and staff experience and workload. This situation can be assuaged by the effective use of the communication techniques covered thus far in the textbook and in class.
First and foremost, the number one goal of any health professional should be to provide patients with the care they need for the purpose of supporting the patient’s overall wellness. Coming from this perspective, the elderly patient that presented with more immediate and life-threatening symptoms should be taken care of first despite any other situational factor, especially snippiness; however, this does not mean that a well-trained provider cannot effectively defuse the female patient’s anger and ensure that the elderly male’s care is administered first. The manner in which this goal will be achieved is through the proper use of the healthcare professional’s interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are the number one tool at the health professional’s disposal in this situation especially in regards to the female patient’s dissatisfaction. In fact, technical competence does not appear to be as important as perceptions of a provider’s interpersonal skills when it comes to health care satisfaction (Tarrant et al., 2003). According to Wright, Sparks, & O’hair (2012), communication has been shown to have a significant impact on whether or not people feel their encounters with providers are satisfactory and whether or not their needs have been met (p.36). In other words, the elderly gentleman should be treated first and in doing so this does not mean that the female patient will be dissatisfied with the situation. If the health professionals take special care in engaging with the female patient and utilize their interpersonal skills (the following paragraph will delineate specifics of how). Studies have found that satisfaction is often linked to a provider’s ability to communicate warmth, emotional support, availability, understanding, and caring to the patient (Brown, Stewart, & Ryan, 2003; Kim, Kaplowitz, & Johnston, 2004)....
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