Women wait about 16 minutes longer than men to receive pain medication when they visit an emergency room, according to one University of Pennsylvania study. In addition to issues such as women being more likely to be told that their pain is psychosomatic, it’s no wonder why many may feel uncomfortable at their doctor’s office, especially when it comes to discussing personal health conditions or concerns. From the major issues that need to be addressed to the importance of good communication skills and more, here are just a few key ways that healthcare providers can make their patients feel more comfortable.
The major issues that need addressed
As with any healthcare setting, active listening on the provider’s part is an absolute must and can go a long way in making a patient feel heard regarding their concerns. This is especially true since women’s health concerns have been known to be downplayed or even dismissed by a physician. Dr. Tia Powell, a bioethicist and a professor of clinical epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York note “It’s a huge issue in medicine.” This may be due to the issue that healthcare providers may have biases that affect the way that women are heard and treated in such settings, leaving many without the care they need or feeling hopeless in being heard about their healthcare concerns. While this matter is becoming more widely discussed, there’s still a lot of work to do – and implementing active listening is just one way that a step can be taken in the right direction, in addition to good communication and asking the right questions.
Good communication is key
When it comes to creating a comfortable environment for women in the doctor’s office, good communication is a key aspect in helping them to open up and discuss their health concerns. For example, getting to know the patient can aid by making them feel more comfortable in sharing their healthcare history and details about their condition. Establishing a rapport by making eye contact and paying attention to the patient’s concerns can also help build trust with them, as can showing respect. One way that a healthcare provider might do this is by explaining everything that they are doing as they do it, such as by verbalizing or narrating what they’re doing during an exam. This is especially important when performing even the most routine exams, where proper communication can allow the patient to be comfortable in knowing what to expect.
Asking the right questions
In addition to good communication skills, healthcare providers should also take care to ask the right questions as well, especially since some women’s medical concerns – like bacterial vaginosis – may be difficult for the patient to talk about, despite it being a very common issue. For example, a woman who is experiencing recurrent bacterial vaginosis, or a bv infection that clears up and then returns and needs treatment again, may feel embarrassed or even ashamed to discuss the condition at length. By asking the right questions as a healthcare provider, such as what the patient’s lifestyle entails, he or she can gain valuable insight as to what may be contributing to the recurrent infections – such as the use of strong laundry detergent or soap that can throw off the vagina’s natural pH balance.
Due to the major issues regarding women being heard and properly treated in medicine, there’s no doubt as to why many may feel uncomfortable in discussing personal health concerns with their doctor. However, there are a number of ways that healthcare providers can make their patients more comfortable, from actively listening to making it a point to maintain good communication skills.