No, no, I should use a deeper voice to sound more authoritative…
“Hello. My name is Ben, I’m a second year medical student. Today I’m going to ask you a few questions about your problem. I’ll also conduct a physical exam, and then I’ll consult with my attending physician. So, why did you come to see us today?”
Maybe that was a little too formal? And when should I ask the patient his name?
I was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, practicing to myself. Today in school I had to see three “patients”. These patients are actors, and when the interaction is over with, the actors stop acting and offer us criticism on our communication skills. My number one criticism from all three patients?
Lack of confidence. An uncertain demeanor. A little timid.
Last year, when I did this same exercise, the patients said I performed swimmingly. The difference between one year ago and today is that for the past year, I’ve been constantly cramming knowledge into my head. Last year, I was full of self-confidence for one reason: no matter how much thinking I did, I just couldn’t think of any reason why I might be wrong. Now it’s entirely different. The more thinking I do, the more and more I doubt my initial impressions.
But patients don’t want a timid, uncertain doctor, and this kind of doctor won’t give patients the comfort they need when they’re ill. I may have an exquisite line of reasoning. I may be friendly, professional, and composed. But somehow, I need to convince the patient that I do, definitely, beyond any shadow of a doubt–know what I’m doing.
Of course, I won’t really know what I’m doing for another six years. Eventually, I’ll make accurate, lighting-fast diagnoses without even lifting a mental finger. Eventually, I’ll back up my confidence with competence. Until then, I guess I’ll just have to fake it.