Look me in the eye when you're talking to me

Before his death, Ivan Noble received his fair share of bad news from doctors. “He felt strongly that the medical profession needed to work on its techniques for breaking bad news – what he called ‘the shoe problem’.”

Dr. Kettlewell, from Scotland, goes on to explain why doctors feel they can’t look the patient in the eye when telling such bad news and how it should be done.

Further to Dr. Kettlewell’s comments, I have to say I’ve been generally shocked by the NHS doctors I’ve met. They avoid eye contact much more often than when announcing terrible news, they avoid eye contact at all times!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve so far been satisfied with the service I’ve needed from the NHS, but it’s been rather minor. If I went to see my doctor for something more serious than eczema or a prescription refill, I’d be very frustrated. The lack of even the most basic acknowledgement that there is another person in the room on the doctor’s part doesn’t encourage the patient to explain symptoms. They seem to want to pass the patients as quickly as possible, not calling them by their names or looking at them.

“What may be another day at work for a healthcare professional is perhaps the most stressful day in the life of the patient.” No one likes going to see doctors and get bad news, so the visit should cause as little distress for the patient as possible.

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