The Lost Art of Listening

As surgeons, we have many responsibilities. Our patients trust us to do our best work, protect their safety, and provide optimal results. With proper education and training, these things are achievable. But there’s something else, a “softer” skill perhaps, but important all the same: listening. We must listen to our patients in order to do our best work. I make it a priority at my Phoenix plastic surgery practice, and can’t emphasize enough the difference it can make.

I learned a lot in medical school. I grew to understand the human body – inside and out – and how to keep it healthy. I learned techniques for improving external appearance and to help healing after surgery. But there are some things that you just don’t “get” until you’re actually practicing medicine, when you’re face-to-face with a patient and must find a way to achieve their goals. It is then that surgeons can fully comprehend the importance of listening to patients.

Every Step of the Way

Listening is important at each stage of the process – from the first consultation through recovery. So let’s take a look at these two stages more closely and discuss why listening is so essential.

The Consultation

A successful consultation is imperative for any successful surgery. My ultimate goal is to achieve the improvement the patient desires, and to do so in a way that is in harmony with their priorities and their concerns. How could I do this without listening to the patient during our initial consultation? That’s why I sit quietly and listen intently to my patients as they speak. I don’t want to miss what they are trying to communicate to me.

Patients: If you’re a patient, you need to know that your surgeon is really listening to you during your consultation. They should listen as conscientiously as they talk and they shouldn’t interrupt you. A great way to see if they’ve absorbed what you have to say is to see if they repeat the key points back to you or incorporate your concerns into their surgical plan. Repeating your key points and asking for clarification on some of your comments shows that they have processed the information.

Recovery

Recovery from surgery can be a difficult time for patients. There are often questions and concerns that arise. I monitor my patients closely during their recovery to ensure that they are safe, healthy, and protecting their results. In order to do this, I need to hear from the patient. I need them to tell me how they feel – physically and emotionally. And I need to listen to them in order to ensure a smooth recovery.

Patients: Your surgeon’s care for you should not end when you leave the OR. A good surgeon will be attentive, available and responsive during your recovery. If a surgeon listens to you when you call them or visit them during your recovery, they will honor your feelings and address your concerns.

Sadly, listening has become somewhat of a lost art, but I’m committed to keeping it at the forefront of my patient interactions. Patients, look for excellent listening skills from your surgeon. If you don’t feel that you can communicate well with your surgeon, go elsewhere – because the success of your surgery depends on it.

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