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

Thank you lessons


When patients express thanks, they teach us what matters most to them. They often mention careful listening and conveying empathy and compassion. 

Each year I compile a list of patient comments to give to my residents for the holidays. The comments come from the brief ubiquitous patient satisfaction surveys given after the visit. Often completed hastily during checkout, they still contain beautiful expressions of appreciation and gratitude.


Patients rarely mention gratitude for medical knowledge, diagnostic ability, or even healing. Instead, comments most often express gratitude that their doctor listened closely, asked questions, and expressed empathy and compassion.


After active listening, explaining is the most praised attribute: explaining medication, labs, and the impact of a phone call to explain new findings. For one patient, the way the physician explained every aspect of the exam was essential.  Another patient highlighted that the resident described his thought process as he made decisions.


The comments often reveal the style of each resident reflected in the praise. A preternaturally calm intern “Created a space for a good and easy conversation about my health.” The amazing multitasker junior resident “Asked questions while making me feel heard and supported.” And a visit with a profoundly empathetic senior resident elicited the simple statement “It is well with my soul.”








This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.