How to Tell Doctors About Embarrassing Problems | Addressing Awkwardness


Healthcare is something that can make for some very intimate conversations. And sometimes, those conversations go beyond what people may be comfortable with. While good health is something that is often made public, it may be that someone first dealt with quite, private and even embarrassing medical situations before reaching that point. These private conversations and patient confidentiality may be the most important part of doctor-patient interactions. Even still, patients often struggle with how to tell doctors about embarrassing problems.

how to tell doctors about embarrassing problems

Whether it’s strange odors, excessive sweating, issues with very private areas of the body, or even something that is common like thinning hair, talking to a doctor is the logical first step. Even though entering a medical setting objectively allows for professional attention and perspectives on these matters, it doesn’t mean patients won’t feel a very real sense of embarrassment. In some scenarios, patients may even avoid seeking care for serious issues just because of the sensitive nature of their condition. So, how do you make your patients more comfortable?

How to Tell Doctors About Embarrassing Problems | Easy Tips for Making Patients More Comfortable

It’s important to get a handle on teaching patients how to tell doctors about embarrassing problems. In addition, doctors need to remain aware of these common tendencies and how to react to their patients appropriately.

1. This is a Doctor Visit, Not a Date

Patients need to understand that visiting the doctor is something that requires total honesty. In many cases, patients won’t iterate their embarrassing issues to others, so healthcare professionals may be the first to receive this information. That aspect alone can lead to hesitation in initiating these conversations and may delay diagnosis and treatment. Doctors should realize this and make an obvious effort to say that as embarrassing as an issue may be, there’s no need to feel ashamed about a health concern. At the same time, patients need to enter a healthcare facility or clinic with the goal of treatment, rather than preservation of their ego. Although it’s a doctor visit and not a date, it’s important to establish a certain level of personal interaction to help patients through potentially awkward conversations.

2. When it’s Time to Strip

No, I’m not talking about a career change! In addition to bringing up embarrassing issues with a doctor,  patients can also feel vulnerable and nervous when required to wear medical gowns. For ease of examination, these gowns can be required. It’s most likely best to have any awkward conversations before asking patients to change their clothes. Remind your patients that their medical visit is really meant to provide a solution, not to make them uncomfortable for the sake of doing so. This is to say that requesting to address health problems within someone’s idea of comfortability can go a long way.

3. Don’t Worry About Technical Terms

Sure it may be the case that patients are experiencing “rectal bleeding during each instance of defecation,” but it’s perfectly fine for them to say there is “blood in my poop.” Patients need to feel comfortable in addressing their health conditions using terminology that they understand, all without feeling the need to learn technical language ahead of time. Remind your patient that there’s no pressure to communicate on a doctor’s level if they don’t have a medical background. Doctors need to understand that patients must feel comfortable in using their own terms and that this communication can also contain nuances as to how they feel about the situation. As with most communication, how something is said is often more important than what is actually said. Doctors who meet patients halfway to use less formal terminology can make an uncomfortable experience a little more bearable.

In discussing how to tell doctors about embarrassing problems, a lot of the concerns relate to the dynamics of doctor-patient relationships. By understanding the ways doctors can better approach and relate to patients dealing with very intimate concerns, the hope is that people can get better treatment and feel a little less weird during visits. How do you help patients deal with embarrassing issues? Let us know in the comments below!

Author: Connor Smith

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