I evaluated a 7-year-old girl with abdominal pain last week. When I entered the room I noticed that she was wearing a High School Musical t-shirt.
That’s, of course, where I started.
During the first couple of minutes in the room she learned that I have a daughter about her age, I’ve seen High School Musical at least a dozen times, and I know most of the songs by heart (I even hummed a few bars). The discussion segued into dialog with the parents about the Disney Channel. They learned about my disdain for its irreverent characters.
None of this was calculated. It’s just the two-minute drill that transpires during the early stages of a relationship. It’s a critical first step in establishing trust. The relationship between a provider and patient is, in many ways, just like any other relationship.
Perhaps most importantly our brief repartee told the child that I understand her. It told the family about my values with respect to parent-child relationships. It reflected that I understand how very important a t-shirt can be to a 7-year-old girl. All critical first steps for helping to facilitate an open dialog.
A good doctor, like a great salesman, understands that making the connection is a critical first step in the ultimate goal of closing.