Communication, rapport and trust are essential in medicine – for patients and for physicians. Without honest, accurate communication the subtleties of the diagnosis can be lost. Strengthening communication with patients not only helps improve care, but may improve your quality of life as well. Feeling a human connection with patients can bring back an intrinsic value to your practice of medicine.
In addition, studies have shown that positive physician communication behaviors increased patients' perceptions of physician competence and decreased malpractice claim intentions toward both the physician and the hospital.
Disagreement is common in medicine, as professionals may disagree on treatment options or diagnoses, and patients or families may question care choices. Conflict resolution skills are important in medicine in managing interactions with patients, families, peers, vendors, and office and hospital staff. The issues of conflict may differ, but the dynamics are similar.
To best handle demanding patients or families, acknowledge their expectations and attempt compromise. Sometimes it is effective to acknowledge that the patient has been heard and his or her perspective considered, but that the physician has a different perspective and position. Although firmness may be necessary, rarely will anything be gained by hostility or by confrontation.
Administrators, nurses and consultants may be other sources of conflict; often, ongoing personality conflicts exist, provoked by the intensity of the work environment. Focus on finding common ground -- the patient's needs.
Not every conflict is a battle that must be won. Healthy conflict resolution requires physicians to know when to stand up and when to negotiate or retreat.