Borrowing from the theater to aid your practice's patient relations
I’ve never acted but I enjoy the theater, and so in order to make each second with my obstetrics patients count, I’ve come to think of them as patrons at a show watching a short play. In this production, I’m the playwright, director, set designer and lead actor. If the show’s a hit, not only are my patients’ experiences enhanced but the quality of my relationships with them is, too.
Mine is a multicultural maternal fetal medicine practice near Washington, D.C. My role is to perform consultations and outline a plan of care at the beginning of a high- risk pregnancy and to interpret and discuss ultrasound findings with my patients. Like most physicians, I struggle to make patient interactions the priority with so many other professional responsibilities competing for my time.
While not everything that works in my practice may be generalizable, here are some of the ways I borrow techniques from the theater to benefit the up to 40-45 patients I see each day.
I set a welcoming and inclusive stage, starting with the waiting room:
There is comfortable seating for patients of all sizes.
I have learned that if my patients bring young children, it is easier on them and us to embrace that fact: We have toys and books in our waiting room that the children can bring throughout the unit.
Our wall art reflects the diversity of our patient population. I enjoy sharing a collection of figurines of pregnant women or mothers with babies from around the world in my consultation office that is much admired by my patients.