Relationship Development: Approach to Welcoming Patients
Figure 22. Dr. Ryan, street psychiatrist, makes a call in Malibu. Taken by Dr. Coley King of Venice Family Clinic.
Steps to welcoming a new patient in the field:
- Have a trusted source help with introductions, when possible. Examples of a trusted source include an outreach worker, a shopkeeper who lets the person sleep in their doorway, or a security guard at the local hospital.
- Engage cautiously from a distance (approximately 15-20 feet), call out by introducing yourself and ask permission to approach.
- Move forward cautiously after receiving acknowledgement to come closer.
- Be friendly and use eye contact while initiating a safe and comfortable interaction.
- Address each person by name when possible.
- Strive for face-to-face communication at or below eye level (stand, sit, stoop or squat).
- Ask and get approval before initiating each and every interaction, touch and procedure.
- Take the time to establish rapport before attempting to do a physical exam.
- Demonstrate humility—this can be a source of relief for an anxious patient.
- Think: “How does this person experience our interaction?”
- Offer a pair of socks, shoes, a sandwich, water, a transportation voucher, a blanket or some other simple act of kindness.
Figure 23. Foot care is a useful service that can alleviate discomfort and support a trusting relationship. Taken by Peter Miller.
“How about if I be your coach and your cheerleader, while taking care of your medical needs?”
—Dr. Coley King