Take a Seat

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Take a Seat!

Our county hospital recently purchased new chairs for every patient room, hoping to encourage physicians to sit and speak to their patients. The initiative is called “Commit to Sit,” and is based on research showing that when physicians sit during a patient encounter, patients report higher satisfaction, remember the visit as longer than it actually was, and note that the physician is a better communicator than if she or he stood.

These are commendable goals, but I want to flip the perspective and talk about the effect that sitting has on us – the physicians and surgeons. So often, our visits are conducted standing at the bedside or next to the exam table, leaning over the patient’s body and speaking down to them. Sitting brings us at or below eye level and changes the whole dynamic in the room.

I know that for me, sitting during a patient conversation makes the entire interaction more enjoyable. I can take a breath, relax, and get deeper into conversation with the patient. I find that I’m open to more questions and am less distracted by the rest of the team huddled outside the door. I have even noticed less of the “Oh, Doc, one more thing…” questions that come as you turn for the door. Overall, I feel much more of a connection with the patient when I sit, and selfishly get a boost from these encounters, even though the visits don’t last longer (maybe the research is right!)

If you don’t already sit, give it a try this month. Your patients will surely benefit, and I venture you will, too.

Geoffrey S. Marecek, MD
[email protected]

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