tips and tricks

Practical Pointers: Discover Shortcuts Devised by Colleagues (April 2011)


Habits of the Highly Respectful Physician

Slightly altering Dr Michael W. Kahn’s article for hospital-based physicians, “Etiquette-Based Medicine,”1 for the outpatient setting helps me develop rapport with patients:

  • If the patient is new to you, introduce yourself.
  • Wash your hands in front of the patient to reassure that he or she is not going to catch something from the previous patient.
  • Shake hands.
  • Sit down.
  • Smile.
  • Ask about the patient’s life.
  • Listen attentively.

— John Machata, MD
    North Kingstown, RI


1. Kahn MW. Etiquette-based medicine. N Engl J Med. 2008;358:1988-1989.

Pack It In With Less Pain

Incision and drainage of an abscess is painful, but it is also painful to pack and repack until the site has healed. I have found that after the initial packing is removed, instilling lidocaine without epinephrine using a syringe without the needle lessens the discomfort and anxiety of repacking considerably. It also encourages return visits because the procedure is less painful.

— Willard R. Baker Jr, MMS, PA-C
    Edinburg, Tex

Can You Hear Me Now?

Here’s a tip for dealing with patients who are hard of hearing and either don’t have hearing aids or don’t have them in at the time, usually while they are inpatients in the hospital. Take your stethoscope and let them wear the earpieces. Speak loudly into the chest piece, and watch their faces light up because they can finally hear what you are saying. It’s much better than having to yell for an entire patient encounter!

— Dario M. Zagar, MD
    Fairfield, Conn