Every dentist or team member has heard about it-even if none of us have actually done it. The patient related dental mythology of some dentist somewhere at sometime taking a knee to a patient’s chest while performing an extraction.
Well-I would like to advocate just that! No, I don’t want you to climb up on the patient’s lap and take a knee to their chest. I am talking about body posture and language when interacting with patients.
One of the most vulnerable places that a patient can be is reclined in our offices is reclined back with us hovering over them. From that position, we try to have discussions about their health, our findings and recommendations. The discussions may frequently involve unpleasant or stressful topics regarding procedures, costs and commitment. It is an awkward position to truly have a ‘conversation.’
A discussion or conversation between two people is influenced not just by what we say and how we say it. How we present ourselves physically to our patients can perhaps have one of the greatest influences. Are we facing them? Do they need to crane their necks back to look up at us, upside down only find themselves staring up at a mask, loupes and having to squint through the glare of our headlamp?
What our team advocates is having a ‘knee to knee’ conversation with our patients. The patient should be seated upright and we should bring our chair around, as much as possible to be facing them. No gloves, no mask-not even around the chin. Facing our patients at the same level puts us on the same level from a physical aspect and removes the hierarchy of the white coated doctor hovering over them and dictating care. The equal body posture and language opens up the possibility for more comfortable and honest conversations with our patients.
When a healthcare provider takes the time to unmask, de-glove, sit in from of the patient and look them in the eyes, it conveys several things. It conveys that they are your focus, that you are willing to give them your time thoughtfulness, caring and most importantly, your respect.
Give it a try. Step out of your comfort zone and into one of comfort for the patient. We would love to hear your stories of how it works for you!