Before I started medical school, the small insight into doctor-patient relationships I acquired came from medical television dramas. House was a particular favourite. The protagonist, Dr House, is a resolute misanthrope who contradicts the customary benevolent depiction of the medical profession with his notorious slogan, “Everybody lies.” As an aspiring medical student, in awe of House’s genius, I assumed he was fibbing a little himself with this generalisation and dismissed it as an illustration of his unique cynical charm. Yet, as I progress through medical school, I realise that he was giving some honest advice.
A typical scenario is that you approach a patient with smiles and enthusiastic professionalism, introduce yourself, and obtain consent to talk. You carefully and patiently dissect the patient’s story, translating it into medical terminology. You empathise and discuss the effect of the illness on their lives, all the while maintaining open and calm body language.