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Tips for Making a Positive First Impression at Your Practice

By Anna Mueller, MS28 Jul 2021

As the saying goes, “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” Some experts say people form an opinion about someone new within 3 seconds of meeting them, according to data shared by Business InsiderGettyImages-1302150550

As a physician, you’re the face of your practice and so what people believe about you often extends to your entire business. The first impression you make on your patients and staff sets the tone for your entire practice.

Today, we’re delving into how you can make the best impression on the patients you serve:

9 Tips for Making a Great First Impression

As a physician, you know the best outcomes usually occur when a patient trusts your judgment and commits to their care plan. And a significant part of earning their trust is displaying kindness. This is especially true for patients who, depending on their reason for seeing you, may be feeling a bit vulnerable and concerned.

Here are nine tips for creating a positive impression and earning your patients’ trust:

  1. Check your mood before you enter the room
    Remember the 3-second rule: a patient may make their judgment call about you before you even say a word. So before you enter a room, be sure to take a deep breath, identify any negative feelings you’re experiencing, and set them aside. It’s critical you give each patient your full attention — for the next several minutes, they should be your primary concern.
  1. Consider your appearance
    Grooming and hygiene are critical — especially for healthcare professionals. Even if you’ve worked for the past several hours without a break, you need to appear tidy, refreshed and professional. Carry gum and mints to avoid any bad breath incidents.
  1. Display confidence
    Stand up straight and enter the room with purpose. Speak in calm, clear, and positive tones when engaging with patients and family members.
  1. Introduce yourself immediately
    Make sure you introduce yourself as soon as you enter the room. Ask your patient how they’d like to be addressed and use their name often. Resist the urge to address adults generically (“sweetie,” “honey,” “dear,” “buddy") as this can feel belittling.
  2. Beware of body language
    Be careful not to fold your arms, check your watch, or do anything that could be misconstrued as impatience. Keep your body turned toward your patient, and make eye contact often. It’s also important to keep an eye on your patients’ body language too. If someone appears nervous, it’s important you do your best to assuage their fears.
  3. Smile when appropriate
    Some interactions with patients can be fraught with emotion. But displaying a warm smile can help put them at ease and demonstrate approachability and a willingness to help. If you appear genuine and open, your patient will be more likely to share their feelings and other pertinent information with you.
  4. Make light conversation
    Small talk can create a more relaxed atmosphere and put your patient at ease. Initiate a discussion about family, pets, sports, their job, and identify any common interests. Not only will this small, kind gesture help to “humanize” you, but it will also temporarily take their mind off their distress.
  5. Be actively attentive
    Stay engaged and mindful of what your patient is saying and ask follow-up questions. While you may need to type up notes on your computer or tablet, be sure to regularly look up and make eye contact to show you’re listening. Always be courteous and kind, even if your patient is not.
  6. Leverage the serial position effect
    There’s a phenomenon called the serial position effect, where people are most likely to remember the beginning and end of an experience more than the part in between. You can use this to your advantage by always entering the room with a cheerful greeting and leaving with a heartfelt well wish. This can go a long way toward smoothing over even the bumpiest of patient encounters.

First Impressions Help Forge Relationships

It takes time to build trust, but the foundation begins immediately upon meeting someone. By properly preparing before seeing a patient and making a concerted effort throughout their visit, you can foster better patient-doctor relationships.

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