Communication is one of the essential skills an optometrist requires for clinical efficiency. Most of the time, doctors overestimate their communication skills when they graduate, but it becomes vital for their success when faced with real-world cases.
Effective communication reflects an optometrist’s knowledge and understanding of a patient’s needs. It allows for a safe environment where patients are more comfortable sharing their medical issues, allowing an ideal health plan to be formulated.
There are several reasons which prevent a patient from communicating with their optometrist effectively. It could be due to language barriers, speech impediments, racial differences, or cultural differences. Your job is to look out for these barriers and try coming up with strategies such as hiring a medical interpreter, being sensitive to their beliefs, using gestures, or using drawings or diagrams that weaken these barriers.
Recognizing barriers is the first step towards accommodating a patient, and it makes them realize that their optometrist is considering their needs and values.
How optometrists interact with their patient establishes their relationship with them, therefore making sure their body language reflects a demeanor that shows professionalismand a caring attitude may help patients open up. Greeting them with a smile, having a non-threatening stance, maintaining eye contact, and speaking in a formal tone are just some of the ways an optometrist can express a comfortable environment for their patients.
At the same time, looking out for non-verbal cues may show if a patient is nervous, confused, or anxious. Trying to make them feel relaxed when performing any tests and giving them all the necessary knowledge before conducting any procedure also helps in maintaining a positive experience for the patient.
Clarity is perhaps the most crucial aspect of effective communication for an optometrist. It makes the patient understand essential medical advice and leaves them satisfied. Ensuring the language one uses and the pace at which one delivers medical advice helps patients gain clarity.
Additionally, miscommunication due to lack of clarity may result in misdiagnoses and malpractice. Therefore, optometrists must understand what their patient is saying and ask them for clarity if required.
Armed with information on the internet, many patients come to an optometrist with some knowledge about their ailment. However, without a detailed examination, this information may not be correct. It may fall on the optometrist to make them unlearn their preconceived notions and correcting them where they’re wrong, as it will determine if they’ll comply with medical advice they receive. Optometrists can also use any educational resources at their disposal such as fliers and videos to inform their patients and give them access to reliable information.
Improving communication skills takes time. An optometrist may find it challenging to communicate effectively during the initial stages of their practice, but with constant exposure to patients, this skill is likely to improve. However, one should also take the initiative to receive professional training on this matter if they are lacking, as ineffective communication can cause grave consequences to patient safety and an optometrist’s practice.