Vocational Students Learn Good Bedside Manner Essential to Patient Health.

In a recent study led by John Kelley, a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, it was found that good bedside manner may be more important than people think. It could save a life! The report suggests that “a doctor’s bedside manner can greatly impact patients’ health, aiding their efforts to lose weight, lower their blood pressure, or manage painful symptoms.

“Our results show that the beneficial effects of a good patient-clinician relationship on health care outcomes are of similar magnitude to many well-established medical treatments,” said Kelley.

While a lot of medicines have some pretty harsh potential side effects, “there are no negative side effects to a good patient-clinician relationship.”

A doctor and their patient should make decisions about the patients health together. This way, the patient feels in control and comfortable with their doctor. Some people are civil with their doctors and others feel a lot closer to their doctors.

Deb Hapgood, who teaches a health assistant class at Biddeford Vocational school said, “I think that it is important for patients to feel as though they matter to the nurse or doctor and that their nurse and doctor know them as a person. A patient does not want to be thought of or referred to as the diabetic in room 305. There is so much more to who they are. When a doctor or nurse remembers something personal about their patient it helps them to feel valued and validated.”

Deborah Prescott, who is the school nurse at Thornton Academy, agrees that it is important to be sympathetic with kids who come into her office. She believes that the relationship between a healthcare professional and their patient affects the trust and physical outcome of the patients health. She explained that when a student comes in with a headache or a stomachache, she tries to find the problem behind it and gives off a caring and sympathetic energy to them.

When a patient spends an extended time at the hospital, they get to know the doctors and nurses and sometimes end up having a close relationship.

Jean Vigneault, who has worked as a nurse at Maine Medical Center for 43 years said, “You get attached no matter what but you have to keep yourself a little detached in order to do a good job.”

How does a nurse or doctor care for their patient and keep themselves detached at the same time? According to Vigneault, it’s never an easy balancing act.

“You have to care for people and be sympathetic. So it’s difficult to care about a patient at the same time.”
pic3Senior Kayleigh Henderson is one of the six Thornton Academy students enrolled in the Medical Assisting program at Biddeford Vocational School. She said, “We can’t really make our lives their (the patients) lives. We care and we’re there to help them, but when we go home, we don’t dwell on it.”

How do we teach aspiring doctors to be caring towards a patient?Hapgood says, “I think that you need to model caring and compassionate behavior.”

At Biddeford vocational school, students are put in the patient’s shoes. They have activities where the students try to understand what it’s like to be fighting for your life and trying to visit with family while there are a bunch of doctors and nurses in the room. They learn how to be compassionate towards the patient and their family.

Henderson said, “We have to show that we’re there for them (the patient) no matter what.” She said it is very important for doctors and nurses to be compassionate towards their patients because “if you’re not (compassionate) then you can’t really understand what the person is going though. If you don’t understand their situation, you’re not going to get a good result.”

Another thing that helps remind students to be kind is that it’s a part of their grade. Hapgood shows videos in her classroom that demonstrate kindness and compassion. Hapgood said, “I think that in general humans have become less caring towards one another and that this spills over into the healthcare field. We are less gracious and kind to one another.”

She attributes some of this decline in caring behavior to the increase in technology. She notes that in today’s world, most doctors and nurses are expected to have a laptop computer or iPad in the room with their patient. Hapgood said, “I think that electronic devices have made it more difficult for humans to connect in a meaningful way. Having the computer screen in front of you makes it difficult to have a conversation with your patient or to feel like you connected with them. It is very distracting.”

She does, however find one area where behavior has improved over the past twenty years.

“Today’s generation does a better job dealing with those who have disabilities or those who are different. This helps them be more compassionate. Maybe there is hope!”

 she said. Henderson said most of the people in her Medical Assisting class are very caring. The first thing the students learned in the class was that they had to work as a team. They can’t be rude to each other and they have to be civil in order to do good jobs as doctors and nurses.

Doctors and nurses have a great impact on a patient and their family. Vigneault told the story of a patient she once looked after. Her patient had cancer and was always at the hospital. She got to know the patient and their family. The family would invite Vigneault to their home and she was asked to attend the patient’s funeral after they passed away. The family still kept in touch with Vigneault after the patient passed away. Doctors and nurses have the potential to make a patient’s time at the hospital better and change their lives (and their family’s lives) just by being a friend.

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Educating students for more than 200 years.