Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Happy National Body Language Day! How do you show that you care to your patients?


“Sitting down, leaning in, and making eye contact.” -Kamna Balhara, MD, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Connecting with Patients | October 2, 2020 | <1 min read


Harry Paul, MD, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Sitting at your patient’s level. No one likes to be stood over.

Mariah Robertson, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Having had a parent with #dementia, and  now patients dementia, I’ve learned the value of touch in connecting and bringing a patient to the present moment, especially in advanced disease. Look at and direct questions to the patient even if the caregiver is there. Eye contact and touch really matter.

What do you think?

Do you want to add to the conversation? Please share!

Michelle Gyenes, Medical Student, Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland

Eye contact. It makes every encounter more meaningful.

Chase Anderson, MD, UCSF

Eye contact is key for me as a psychiatrist. I know my patient is opening up more if they start looking at me during conversation.

Jeff Millstein, MD, Penn Medicine

Eye contact, leaning toward your patient and, when appropriate, hand-holding.

Hickam's Dictum, MD, Seattle, Washington

I tend to gesture a lot, very enthusiastically. Most patients (correctly!) interpret my gesticulation as reflective of passion and caring.

Margaret Chisolm, MD, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Subtle mirroring of body posture.

Kamna Balhara, MD, Johns Hopkins Medicine

In the ED, I try to create a moment of quiet, engaged, active listening—closing the door, taking a seat, leaning in, and making eye contact.

Deepa Nandiwada, MD, Penn Medicine

With my patients, I high five for joy, pinky promise for goals, and hug for tears.

Diana Anderson, MD, Boston, MA

I don’t type when speaking with patients, even though that makes for even later charting evenings . . .

Ambereen Mehta, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Get comfortable! Don’t be shy to rearrange the furniture to sit down, even if it’s just for a few minutes. When we’re uncomfortable, our patients can tell and it makes them uncomfortable too. It’s hard to focus when your leg’s going numb from squatting next to the bed!

Irene Mestores, MD, University of Florida

Even with a mask on, I can still lean in.

Swathi Raman, MD, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Maryland

Usually I smile at them, but it’s especially hard to convey caring with PPE. I now usually place a compassionate hand on their shoulder, sit at their level instead of standing, and nod to show that I see and hear them.