What is the most important aspect of any customer service? Most consumers would say communication. Not everyone views the healthcare profession as customer service, however that is exactly what it is. A patient is a consumer and the physician is a business providing a service to that consumer. So why then do we receive better communication and service from our local retail associate or grocer than our physicians and physical therapists?
Communication is key with any profession, especially those who work closely with the consumer. Who works closer to us than medical professionals? Physicians and therapists often obtain a bad reputation for being cold or disconnected. Ever heard someone say, “He’s a good doctor but has horrible bedside manner”?
This is often a defense mechanism to prevent emotional attachment to a patient or their situation. Physical Therapists for instance have patients who have suffered trauma to their body. These patients are suffering from physical and often mental and emotional pain. It is the responsibility of the therapist to get these patients out of their comfort zone, to encourage, educate and help them recover and improve their quality of life. To protect themselves, the physician or therapist may try to keep a strictly professional type of relationship. However, does that really help the patient? The answer can often be yes!
Communication is both verbal and nonverbal, meaning, consider what your PT is saying to you and what are they conveying with body language. Where physical therapy is concerned, therapists use verbal communication to instruct patients and convey empathy in order to establish a relationship. It’s crucial for the relationship to keep the focus of conversations on the patient. Every situation will be different. If your PT is over sharing with personal details of their life, then you may need to correct them. Before thinking your PT or physician is being “cold” by not sharing much about themselves, consider it as a positive. Their job is to be devoted to you and your needs! Taking the focus off themselves and placing it on your needs will help them better assist you in your recovery.
It’s OK to bond with your therapist, especially if you have shared experiences. However, your physical therapist is there to assist you through an often painful and difficult struggle to recovery. There needs to be a healthy distance between you and them to maintain progress and an appropriate relationship. Don’t be scared to talk to your therapist about your communication needs. When deciding who your therapist will be, consider your communication style and needs to find what will work for you.