This is my first question for hospitalized patients: Tell me what you understand.
Let me explain.
I’m a pediatric specialist. I help hospitalists and pediatricians care for children. Actually, I’m typically one of several providers helping families care for a medically complex children in the hospital. And for better or worse communication can sometimes be inconsistent with multiple providers in a big hospital. So what that means for the parent of a chronically ill child is that they may be fully up to speed or somewhat confused.
So early in my time with a new family I like to get some sense of what they understand. I like to know what they know about their child’s condition and plan. It helps to know how they see things and why they see me there at that moment.
For me it offers context. It provides a platform from which to start.
For parents it gives them the stage to open up and share how well-informed or confused they may be. The question makes a clear statement on behalf of me and my peers that we want to be on the same page.
Asking a family what they understand about their child takes only a few seconds and typically a minute or two to answer. But it sets the stage for cleaner communication and a more engaged family.
More importantly it sends the clear message that what they understand comes first.
Modified from Flickr, Fleming Memorial Hospital, UK, 1930