Practical tips by Dr Bethany Rushworth: Building Rapport
Dr Bethany Rushworth, an award-winning dentist with numerous scientific publications, has been focusing on the personal development of dentists for years. Her several years of coaching experience allow her to look at everyday dentistry from an exciting perspective. In this blog series, she talks about her experience and gives you an exclusive insight into her work to help you with your professional development.
In this blog Dr Bethany Rushworth shares insights how she builds rapport with her patients.
Know your patients
Rapport takes time to build and is more of a journey than a sudden change. That being said, it is never too early to start. On meeting someone for the first time, treat it exactly like that – meeting someone! Regardless of the fact that they are a patient or need treatment or don’t like dentists, this is a person, and by making the effort to get to know them better you will not only help them relax and gain trust in you, but it will also make your life easier. Knowing what makes your patients tick will get you far, and if patients leave with a smile on their face having had a nice experience they are much more likely to go raving about you to friends and family.
Utilise your notes
Seeing anywhere from 10 to 40+ patients per day depending on the setting you work in, it wouldn’t be possible to remember every detail about each of them. This is where ‘pop-up notes’ and reminders come in handy. A little record including things such as ‘don’t lie fully flat’ or ‘going to Japan before next exam’ are all helpful hints which mean you can make each patient feel extra cared for. Never write derogatory notes or comments about patients, as they can request access to these and it really doesn’t help anyone. Focus on ways you can improve their experience and use the notes for this purpose.
Tell the truth
I am always honest with my patients, no matter how young, about if something is going to be uncomfortable and for how long. Being truthful allows my patients to trust me, meaning that when I say something WON'T hurt, they know I am telling the truth. By guiding them through what is going to happen and what they are going to feel as we progress through treatment, there are no nasty surprises and they never feel like something has been ‘snuck up’ on them. There are certainly ways things can be phrased to soften the blow (I’m not suggesting telling a child you are about the inject them with a long needle!!) but equally I will say that they are going to feel a pinch/scratch because it is true.
When talking to patients, face them. Pre-COVID I preferred to remove PPE where possible. This isn’t possible at the minute, which makes other aspects of communication even more important and relevant. Having a meaningful, considerate conversation with someone through a mask is not going to be easy and patients can’t see your facial expressions properly – such as a smile! Therefore, consider the tone of your voice, body position and language and making sure you clarify that the patient has heard and understood you. Aside from keeping your patient informed throughout their treatment, discussions shouldn’t be had with the patient laying upside down. Therefore, make the effort to sit your patient up for this.
Do the leg work
Personally, I collect EVERY patient from the waiting room myself. In my opinion this makes patients feel as though you directly care about them and they aren’t being ‘delivered’ to you by another member of staff. This might not sound particularly time efficient but in reality, the short walk from the waiting room to my surgery allows me to have a catch up with the patient, getting the discussion started and making it much easier as we arrive in the surgery for me to say ‘take a seat in the chair, make yourself comfortable, and tell me, how has everything been with your teeth?’. This gets right to the point and in most cases prevents the patient from walking through the door with the nurse and then standing there for the next few minutes with small talk!
Listen, don’t wait to speak
As a naturally chatty person this is something I have really had to work on. When you ask a patient something, properly listen. On our busy days it can be hard not to rush them (of course there are some exceptions to this rule!) but often by truly listening we will get a lot more information than if we keep interrupting the patient to hurry them up. By asking well considered questions and letting the patient answer, you are likely to get lots of extra details which can be important in helping you get to know them. This isn’t just about getting a pain history, but thinking more long term about building valuable, positive relationships with each patient you see.
Finally, it is always beneficial to summarise things with your patients. I have three key times during every appointment in which I do this.
- At the end of the pain/problem history for example “So just to confirm, you have got a pain on the top left which started on Saturday? It is worse with hot and cold, lingers, but there is no pain on biting?”
- To outline what is going to be done “This morning is for your check-up. I will check the health of the teeth first, take some gum measurements with a small ruler on a probe, then we are due some routine radiographs of your teeth to check there is nothing going on under those bigger fillings at the back, is that ok?”
- At the end of the appointment “Today we did the white filling on the top right molar tooth. The treatment left to do following today’s appointment is the metal filling on the bottom left and the crown on the front tooth. That’s three more appointments and next time we will do the filling.”
Doing this lets my patients know I have understood them and gives them the opportunity to correct me or ask questions. They can then leave the appointment feeling listened to, educated and with a clear idea of what has been done or what is yet to be done.
Learn more about stress management in our next blog entry.
Dr. Bethany Rushworth
108-110 Town St,