I had a patient born to a young, first time mom. The baby had numerous problems involving the spine, limbs and brain. Before I went to the room, I knew I had to do a lot of explaining. I found the mom alone obviously overwhelmed by what was happening.
Communicating what we know about diseases to patients is a skill we develop over time.
They deserve to know everything we could possibly tell them. How the condition came about. What caused it.What could it lead to.And to many, what can be done to relieve them of their complaints.
All these we had to do without drowning them with medical jargon. Or giving too much or too little.
Here’s an exercise. Think of one disease we commonly encounter in a patient. How do we explain it to a grade schooler, say a grade 5 student? In simplest terms we could possibly use.
What I find helpful is knowing what patients already know.
I use it as my starting point. Some patients like to hear everything. Some just want to know how will life be different for them or their chances.
Conditions requiring long explanation may need to be chunked into small bites. I check for understanding before moving on to the next chunk.
I try to talk slow and observe body signals that suggest understanding or otherwise as I go along. Asking for any thing that needs to be clarified or be discussed is a good way to end.
The mom I was talking to only wanted to know what could be done for the moment. I respected that.
Chunk and check for better understanding.