When parents bring their children to the doctor, they want to be reassured that their babies will be taken care of by a true professional. Dr. Ayfarah Frangieh, a pediatrician working in Oak Grove Medical Clinic, knows this situation well. She allowed me to interview her on how she communicates with families about the things most important to them: the well-being of their children.
Dr. Frangieh tells me that her profession involves lots of face to face contact with her patients and their parents. However, before she can speak with any patient, she must first go through a communication checklist made by the American Academy of Pediatrics. These are made for patients based on their age, and include spaces to write any complaints the children or their parents want to bring to her attention. There are several other special checklists she and her nurses use if a child is suspected to have a specific problem, such as hyperactivity disorders, autism, or abnormal vital signs.
Dr. Frangieh explains that a special kind of communication is needed with her patients. Worried parents and children often simply need to be reassured. “Sometimes you don’t do anything for them medically, but just by explaining to them what you’ve done or what you can do keeps them… trusting you more,” Dr. Frangieh says. She has developed an informal system for communicating in each examination.
She begins by greeting everyone nicely and making the parent or guardian in the room feel comfortable. She then hears everything about the patient from the adult, though she keeps eye contact with both parent and child. Then she asks the child (if they are old enough) to explain it in their own words. The important thing is to keep the atmosphere “open, nonjudgmental,” she explains. She also keeps her lab coat off to keep her younger patients from being nervous.
This personal connection she establishes with her patients is her favorite form of communication. When asked if she felt that her professional attitude helps in these interactions, Dr. Frangieh says “Absolutely. By far the number one thing that actually keeps my patients coming back to me.” They appreciate her willingness to listen to each concern they have. This reassurance also prevents parents from worrying and rushing to the emergency room.
While her patient charts are definitely crucial, most written communication in her workplace is focused on closing the gaps between receptionist, nurse, and doctor. Any time a shift is switched or a document changes hands, some details are at risk of being lost. This is why Dr. Frangieh places such an emphasis on writing down all information. Written communication “keeps everybody on one wavelength” and allows people to pick up where another person leaves off.
Outside of her day-to-day clinical work, Dr. Frangieh is sometimes called upon to speak at certain events about healthcare. For example, she was recently asked to prepare a presentation for the Relay for Life. She will write a report, give a speech, and present slides for an audience of about 500-600 people about the importance of preventative care for breast cancer. She will focus the presentation on awareness and keeping one’s body in good health. This form of communication is very different from what she normally experiences, but she has been asked to do this several times both during her residency and at her own clinic.
Dr. Frangieh definitely values professional communication in her workplace. She notes that both in her own hiring process and in the hiring of others, good communication skills are a must. They keep her work environment running smoothly, minimizing clerical errors and reassuring worried patients. Even outside of work, these skills are important to spreading information to others. Effective communication leads to effective treatment, and this keeps her patients safe and healthy.
Randi Domingue, guest blogger