4 ways to help your patients trust treatment by a resident
Friday, March 30, 2018
Put yourself in your patient's position: You're in your hospital bed, awaiting the doctor's arrival for your initial workup. But hold on. The white-coated young man who comes into the room couldn't have a medical license — he barely looks old enough to have a driver's license.
Yet, of course, he is a doctor — a resident under your supervision, to be exact. Your patient expresses to you that he's extremely stressed out at the thought of this newbie physician handling his care. You want your patient to relax and trust that your resident isn't going to drop the ball. So how do you achieve this goal?
Easy. You reassure your patient that although it's understandable to worry about the experience and competence of newly minted MD in a hospital setting, the reality is that medical residents can provide safe, excellent care.
Here are five key points you can share with your patient as to why being treated by a resident can really benefit his health. Clearly emphasize the following:
1. Residents are the most informed when it comes to cutting-edge treatments
At a teaching hospital, residents are required to read and look up medical info nonstop. They constantly research the development of new treatments — often much more in depth than their busy supervising physicians have time to do — and then discuss these fresh procedures with their higher-ups. So the knowledge a resident can provide in any patient's case can be significant.
Note: Even for an experienced hospitalist, it can be helpful to review the duties of a resident in layman's terms before outlining them to a patient, if you choose to do so in detail. The Mayo Clinic offers this helpful outline of an internal medicine resident's task list.
2. Residents pay careful attention to you
Explain to your patient that In doing that initial workup, she'll notice that a resident asks lots of focused questions, and spends more time listening to you than the top doctor on your team will do during rounds. Residents are not only taught to gather every important detail they can while interacting with you, they're naturally inquisitive most of the time, and have been freshly taught to think using academic methodology — they dot I's and cross T's as a way of life.
A good resident will pay similar close attention while doing a procedure on you. Here's a great overview of how an IM resident specifically learns via Johns Hopkins factsheet — you might want to share it with an apprehensive patient.
3. Residents are closely supervised
Your patient may have heard about the "July effect" — the premise in which more patients die in hospitals in that month because new interns are flooding into teaching hospitals as more experienced residents leave. If he or she is a summer admission, this may be a significant worry.
Research shows there isn't really a significant impact on patients' health in this way. However, a Harvard/Stanford/USC/Rand study showed, for example, that a July hospitalization held a negligible risk for most patients, and that higher risk patients are carefully monitored by experienced doctors during this time period at most teaching facilities.
4. Residents are always being monitored by experienced physicians
Let your patient know that your residents must answer for every medical move they make and participate in intense orientation work from the moment they arrive at the hospital. Stress the fact that patient safety is your top concern, that you're watching each resident closely, and that if your patient has even one iota of a problem or question regarding treatment, he can let you know. The buck stops with you.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: You must respect your patient's right to choose. Of course, she can opt out of having a resident — or any doctor — care for her, if she wants to. But information is indeed power.
If you effectively present the facts your patient needs to feel comfortable — by relaying the information with conviction as well as empathy for her concerns — chances are quite good that your patient will give her resident a chance, and see for herself that her resulting care will be top-notch.
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