Taking the time to explicitly welcome new patients to your clinic may help them feel comfortable. This can dramatically influence their experience.
I was the pediatric attending precepting a senior resident. She told me about new patients: a single mom and her two children who were at our clinic for their first well-child visit. I’d known this resident for three years. She was wonderful and about to become an attending herself. The two children sounded generally healthy. If it hadn’t been a rule that attendings went in to see all new patients, I never would have gone in the room. Because of the rule I went in the room to meet the mom and her children, introduced myself, welcomed them to our clinic, briefly examined the kids, chatted with both children, and asked the preteen what she wanted to do when she grew up. Mom didn’t have any further questions, so I started to exit the room.
Then mom grabbed my arm. “Thank you,” she said.
“What for?” I asked. I had simply performed a routine visit.
“I don’t know if it’s the color of my skin or the fact that my kids aren’t always dressed in church clothes when we come to care, but nobody’s EVER welcomed us to clinic before. Nobody’s ever even made us feel like we were welcome in the clinic. And you took the time to ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up. That means you think she’ll grow up and BE somebody. You think she has a future,” Mom said.
Since then, I’ve continued to welcome new families to clinic and ask children what they want to do when they grow up. But now I don’t think about it as routine. Or perfunctory. I think about it as an honor to be someone who can make families feel included. Here are three tips:
1. Always welcome new patients to clinic. Help them feel included and show you’re excited to meet them.
2. Ask patients about their dreams. Asking lets them know you believe in them.
3. Recognize that what’s routine for you can may a difference to patients.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.