Bedside manner — A true story

March 5, 2012

Healing, Health, Self-improvement

After spending all day being examined in the emergency room, Bill was finally admitted to a hospital room late in the day — discouraged, exhausted and frightened.

by Irene Conlan — 

He — we’ll call him Bill — had been ill for several months with strange symptoms that progressed rapidly. When Bill finally saw a physician, he was weak on one side of his body, having difficulty swallowing and experiencing twitching muscles throughout his body. He was sent immediately to a large neurological center for diagnosis and treatment.

After spending all day being examined in the emergency room, Bill was finally admitted to a hospital room late in the day — discouraged, exhausted and frightened. They woke him in the middle of the night for an MRI and a CT scan, and he got almost no sleep. His morning began very early with blood work, more x-rays and a parade of health care professionals. By nightfall he was too tired to eat, and sleep wouldn’t come. No one seemed to notice.

The next day, the neurologist, considered one of the best of the best, came in with a retinue of residents trailing behind him. Chart in hand, he looked at this very ill man and said, “You have ALS — that’s Lou Gehrig’s disease. There’s no known cause, no treatment and no cure.” He spoke in medicalese to the residents — words that most people don’t understand — and then turned to Bill and asked, “Do you have any questions?” Bill was too stunned to ask anything. Then the specialist and his charges, with no further comments or dialogue, left the room.

The next day, after the final confirming test was done, the neurologist came in again with his parade of residents. After dialoging among themselves, again in medicalese, the doctor said to Bill, “The last test is in, and it is confirmed that you have ALS. There’s no cure. Now don’t go running around spending your money on exotic treatments and alternative methods, because nothing will help you. You can go on home and come back to the ALS Clinic. Do you have any questions?”

Not waiting for an answer, the doctor left the room, like a duck with his ducklings trailing behind him. The death sentence had been delivered without so much as a kind word or gesture.

The hospital staff came and went quickly like they were just too busy to say anything (and in all likelihood they didn’t know what to say to someone who had just been told he was going to soon die a horrible death).

A month or two after the initial diagnosis, while receiving treatment at the clinic, his doctor said, “I’m really surprised that you are not deteriorating faster than you are.” Bill then obliged him, and his decline accelerated. Within 45 days he died in hospice.

The doctor was brilliant in his field. The hospital gave the best physical care that could possibly be given. The bedside manner of both the doctors and the hospital staff, however, scored a zero. “Bedside manner” is really no more than common courtesy, kindness, listening, showing interest, using understandable language and, perhaps, showing compassion.

It doesn’t matter if you are a renowned specialist in allopathic medicine, an osteopathic, homeopathic or naturopathic doctor, a dentist, chiropractor, Reiki master, spiritual healer or some other form of alternative and complementary medicine practitioner. The patient deserves to be treated like an intelligent, sensitive, competent human being. It is your job to give him information in a language that he can understand, deliver him the bad news without robbing him of all hope and then to set the stage for his healing or transition.

Remember that a patient is more than bones, muscles, organs and skin, and that what impinges on him emotionally, spiritually and psychologically impacts his response to medical care and healing work. Your bedside manner can be used as therapeutically as the prescription pad, the adjustments and the energy work. Put yourself in your patient’s shoes and think about what you would need to know and how you would like to be treated — your bedside manner, then, will most likely be what it should be.


Irene Conlan has a master’s degree in nursing, is a certified hypnotherapist and a certified past-life regression therapist in Scottsdale, Ariz. or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 2, Apr/May 2009.

, , , , , , , , , ,
Web Analytics