More and more, I hear business people say that they don’t like to touch people, shake hands or to be touched by others due to the risk of getting germs. This is a very sad commentary, as far as I am concerned. But even sadder, to me, was to hear nurses say they don’t like to touch their patients because they feel they are unclean or they don’t want to risk getting their germs.
While I appreciate not wanting to get someone’s germs that may cause an illness, I think to take the “no touch” approach with your patients is risky and very damaging to developing a mutually respectful relationship.
Nurses and physicians are certainly taught techniques on hand washing, maintaining sterile fields, dealing with patients who are infectious by using isolation procedures and various other ways to protect themselves and avoid spreading diseases to other people. So why the resistance to touch your patients?
I think it is multifaceted with some of it brought on by how high-tech medicine has become. Healthcare workers are now booting up their computers to enter data and the answers to the questions they ask their patients, often, before they even shake their hand or make eye contact with them. Physicians are now able to do every test imaginable to diagnose patients that it seems rather easy to forget about actually putting your hands on the patient. I have even had people tell me they received a complete physical without ever having taken any clothes off. This is unimaginable to me. If physicians aren’t actually looking at someone’s body, I would guess they are missing some things.
We know from studies that babies who are not touched fail to thrive and some, even die. The human touch is a big part of diagnosing and healing. Imagine the elderly patient who lives alone and has no one to hug them. Touching people and being touched is essential to life. We all seek touch from those we love. Why not make sure it is part of the equation when caring for patients.
So, here are some tips to ensure you make some sort of physical contact with your patients:
Upon entering a patient’s room in the hospital or the office exam room, extend your hand to meet them before you go to the computer to start asking questions.
If handshaking is not possible, touch the patient on the shoulder, or arm. This is a comforting gesture when consoling them or delivering bad news…something they will appreciate.
Spend a few moments talking directly to the patient. Note the color of their eyes to make sure you are making appropriate eye contact.
Introduce yourself and let them know what you do and who you are; nurse, tech, P.A., etc.
While entering data in your computer, look at the patient while asking the question and then look at the keyboard when entering their answers. Reassure the patient that you are listening to them.
Shake hands or extend another touch upon leaving the exam room. Your touch will be noted.
If you still don’t want to touch your patients, maybe you should reevaluate why you went into medicine. Compassion is important in caring for the sick.
And for those business people who don’t like to shake hands…to refuse to shake hands with someone is a huge insult. Shaking hands is the universally accepted way to touch others in almost, every country in the world. So, reach out and touch someone, then go use your antibacterial wipes
Women Judged More Severely than Men
Research has shown us that women are judged much more severely than men, when it comes to how they dress. And in case we forgot that fact, it was recently proven again, in the media a week or so ago with a news piece about Duchess Kate. She and her husband, Prince William, were taking public transportation on one of the red buses in London to get a perspective of what the morning commuters deal with on their way to work every day.
However, what did the media focus on, with a long angle lens, no less? A few errant gray hairs popping up in Princess Kate’s hair. No mention of the good deeds of the day, just speculation as to whether she was letting herself go since she has become a mother. Now, there was no mention of the fact that Prince William is getting a little thin on top or whether he might be letting himself go.
Remember Hillary Clinton being criticized for stepping out without her make-up? Horrors! Who would dare do that. And then we had national news coverage of Mrs. Obama’s new bangs. Are these things worthy of being lead stories in the news? Well, I guess some people think so.
Not fair, but true and another reason women should take care in what they wear to work. It is important to choose wisely so you are taken seriously in your particular field of work.
So here are some of my tips for professional women in regard to their dress.
Follow corporate guidelines. Check out your employee manual and dress accordingly. Not following the guidelines can make you appear non compliant.
Leave sex out of it. Leave the low-cut tops, tight pants and short skirts in your closet when picking your work wardrobe. There should be no cleavage, bare midriffs or bottom cleavage, when bending over, seen at work. Dressing in a sexy manner sabotages how people feel about you as a professional.
Pay attention to details. Make sure your shoes are polished and your purse is not bulging with too much stuff in it. People do notice the little things and if you are not attentive to those things it may cause them to wonder if pay attention to little things in your work.
Err on the side of formality. When in doubt about what to wear, dress up versus down. And if you ever wonder if something is appropriate for work…it’s probably not. You never want to have to apologize for something you have on.
Be well-groomed. Take the time to dry and style your hair and put on a little make-up. You’ll probably feel better and you will look better for sure.
Keep jewelry simple. Accessories are important, but should be kept subtle for work. No noisy bracelets or too many rings. Less is more in the professional world.
Dress for the job you want. If you want to move up in the company, look at what the people above you are wearing and mimic their style.
Calling Patients to the Exam Room Politely
I am often taken aback when I am in a physician’s office waiting area and hear the staff call back their patients to the exam rooms. Many times there is this abrupt voice that comes from a half opened door announcing loudly, HARRY! Nothing else is said and the poor patient gathers themselves up following the nurse or medical assistant down the hall to their designated exam room in silence…no smile, no warm greeting or introduction. Then, if you are lucky, you get to stop in the hall to get weighed on the community scale. One office that I was in recently, even took blood pressures in the hall before directing the patient to the actual exam room. Not too private, at a time when there is so much emphasis on HIPAA privacy guidelines.
I appreciate that practices may want to cut down on expenses by having one or two communal scales instead of one in every room, but getting weighed in public can be pretty humbling. Surely, there is a better way to do this. Gathering patient information should be done in the privacy of the exam room with a closed door, not in the hall leading to the exam rooms.
So, here are some suggestions on how to call a patient back to the exam room politely:
To assure you can be seen,walk out into the waiting area as close to the patient as possible to call them back.
Smile and greet the patient warmly.
Address the patient formally by Mr. Mrs. or Ms. (this is not a privacy violation)
Direct the patient as to what room they will be going to. For instance, “third door on the right or room 6.”
Don’t ask any medical questions in the hall where answers can be over heard by others.
Don’t weigh people in the hall unless the scales are set up for privacy. And take into consideration as to how coats, purses and other extra clothing will get in the way of an accurate weight.
Consider taking blood pressures in the exam room, only
To identify patients in the waiting area try having the receptionist put a sticky note on the front of the chart using some sort of identifying comment as to who is who. For instance, “red sweater or blue coat.” This then allows you to walk right up to the patient and let them know you are ready to take them back to the exam room.
Be prepared to assist older patients or patients who have limitations or obvious injuries back to the room by taking their coats or other personal items.
Once the patient is in the room, close the door and keep them apprised of their waiting time.
Keep conversations in the hall to a minimum so patients don’t over hear private or inappropriate information.
Trying all of these simple suggestions will leave a much better impression on your patients.
There is nothing more frustrating than arriving for an appointment of any kind, only to find out that you have the wrong day. It has happened to all of us. Sometimes it is our error and sometimes it’s the error where your service is being provided. Regardless, of who is at fault, how these mix ups are managed can make or break the reputation of the business. If not done well, it can cost you a customer.
Take that same scenario, put in the medical arena and you have another potential situation that can lead to a very unhappy patient and some bad lip service for your practice. And even the loss of a patient.
Appointments in medical offices are often preceded with fasting lab work and a host of other things that need to come together before the patient can be seen. Consider post op visits that can be exhausting for the patient, visits by patients who come from a long distance, and older patients who require another family member to accompany them. Often, it isn’t just one person who is inconvenienced by a scheduling error, but several.
So, how do you manage those tricky situations, keep your schedule intact and keep your patient happy? Here are some things to consider:
First, have a discussion about the possibility of this happening and what you are going to do about it. I promise you, it will happen.
Direct staff to seek out the help of a manager or supervisor or even the physician, before turning someone away. This should not be a one person decision.
Don’t assign blame, even if you are not at fault. Listen, apologize for the inconvenience, and let the patient know you will try to accommodate them in some way. This is not the time for a power struggle.
Train front desk staff to be diplomatic. If you have someone on the front desk who can’t deal well with the public, get them off the front desk. They are often the first impression for your practice.
When scheduling appointments give the patient an appointment card filled out by you. This will lessen the chance for an error.
Call and/or email patients 24 hours prior to their appointment to confirm. Ask the patients to call you to confirm if they have not heard from your office within 24 hours.
Consider working them into your schedule in some way. Maybe the nurse practitioner or the PA could help. Offering some alternative will leave a much better impression than just turning them away.
Keep in mind that the patient is why you have a job. They are the most important part of the equation.
Another note…most offices schedule 6 months out and patients will have to call in at a certain time to schedule their annual appointments. Be sure to tell them the best month to call to get on the schedule. There is nothing more frustrating than calling in and being told that your calendar is already filled for the next three months. Remember, what seems to make sense to you, may not make sense to your patients.
I love fresh salad dressing! In fact, I rarely use bottled dressing. Here is my go to recipe for freshly made salad dressing. It is always a hit whenever I serve it.
Fresh ingredients are important.
!/3 cup of very good olive oil
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove of fresh garlic
1/2-1 teaspoon of salt. (To your taste)
Mash the garlic with the salt. I use a mortar & pestle to smash the garlic with the salt.
Add to lemon juice and oil. Shake in a lidded bottle. Refrigerate between uses.
One of my favorite salads with this dressing is fresh romaine lettuce, Granny Smith apples, cut in bite size pieces and crumbled blue cheese. Toss with dressing just before serving. Throw in some fresh chopped parsley too, for an added punch of flavor.
A variation of this dressing is adding a little Dijon mustard…or use a lighter oil with rice wine vinegar in the same proportions.
Your table manners say a great deal about you and can make or break business situations. Here are my tips that everyone should know to navigate a meal with grace and style.
1. Assess the table, pause before picking up any silver. Wait for your host or hostess to start
or senior person at the table.
2. Put napkin on lap to
unfold. When leaving the table temporarily, place the napkin on the chair.
At the end of the meal, place napkin to the left of plate.
3. When encountering a
multi-course meal with multiple pieces of flat ware and you are
questioning what fork to use first, start from the outside and work in
toward the plate.
4. Cut one bite at a time.
5. Solids are on the left
of your dinner plate, such as, bread and butter plate and liquids are on
6. Break bread in bite
size pieces and butter one bite at a time over the bread and butter plate.
7. Your food will be
served from the left and cleared from the right. Liquids are served from
8. We pass food to the
right because the guest of honor sits to the right of the host. If you
start the food, offer it to the person on your right and then take your
portion before sending it around the table counterclockwise.
9. When someone asks for
the salt, pass both the salt and pepper in anticipation of their need. It
also keeps the pair together. Do not pass hand to hand because in some
cultures it is considered bad luck. Place the pair in front of the receiver.
10. Keep personal items
such as; purses, glasses, cell telephones, etc. off the table. Purses
should stay on your lap or under the chair.
11. Refrain from putting on make-up, combing
hair, picking teeth, blowing nose vigorously at the table. “If you do it
the bathroom, don’t do it at the table.”
12.If someone offers a
toast to you do not drink to yourself.
13. When offering a toast,
remember the three B’s; be
prepared, be brief, be seated.
14. If in doubt about what
to do, watch someone at the table who knows. It can prevent an
15. When leaving the table
temporarily do not announce where you are going; just say, “Excuse me.”
16. Chew with your mouth
closed. Take small bites to avoid talking with food in your mouth.
17. Try a little of
everything presented unless you are allergic to a certain food.
18. Don’t talk about food
likes and dislikes at the table.
19. Maintain good posture
at the table. Keep arms and elbows off the table.
20. Don’t push your plate
away from you when finished eating, wait for everyone to finish before
plates are cleared.
21. Don’t gesture with your
knife and fork.
22. Eating in the American
or Continental fashion is
acceptable in America
“Nothing indicates a
well-bred man more than a proper mode of eating his dinner. A man may pass
muster by dressing well, and may sustain himself tolerably in conversation; but
if he is not perfectly au fait, (up
to date), dinner will betray him.”—— “AGOGOS”, 1834
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As someone who teaches etiquette and protocol to professionals I have noticed a lot of things over the years that could and should be done better by professionals. Here is my top 10 list of un-favorite things that I notice people doing in professional settings.
#1. The limp handshake. In the American culture, a firm handshake is expected from men and women, in the gender neutral business arena. Connect palm to palm firmly. Shake from the elbow, two pumps are enough, and then release. If in doubt about your handshake, have a friend evaluate it.
#2 Gum chewing. I am often surprised to see people in professional settings chewing gum. Gum chewing is a solitary activity. In other words, don’t chew gum in public.
#3 Poor table manners. So much of business today, is conducted over a meal. If you are unsure of what to do in dining situations take a class or get a book on table manners.
#4 Restaurant wait staff clearing plates in haste. Ideally, everyone starts the meal together and finishes together. Removing plates before everyone is done puts undo pressure on those who have not finished their meal.
#5 Take home boxes on the table. If taking home food from a restaurant, which you shouldn’t do at a business meal or when you are a guest, wait until everyone is finished. Have the wait staff box up your left overs in the kitchen and hand it to you as you leave.
#6 Responding with “no problem.” Responding to someone’s “thank you” with “no problem” suggests that there was a problem. A sincere “you’re welcome” or “my pleasure” is the best response.
#7 Addressing everyone by their first name. In today’s more casual environment many people, especially young people, feel it is okay to call everyone by their first name. Err on the side of formality and you will always be safe. If someone wants you to call them by their first name, they will let you know.
#8 People preoccupied with their technology. Checking messages or texting in front of others suggests that they are not as important as your messages. Stay in the moment. Check your messages and send your texts in private.
#9 Over sharing on social media. Be careful with too many “selfies” on social media. It can appear narcissistic. Everyone doesn’t need to know every thought that comes into your head. And avoid ranting and raving about politics and hot button news stories.
#10 Posting photos without permission. Don’t post photos or information about others on social media without their permission.
What are some of your pet peeves when it comes to lack of courtesy in others?