Dr. Sunshine's Seven Commandments Of Positive Patient Interactions

Each day during National Physicians Week we will be publishing a different physician perspective to highlight the different voices of those who work in the field. Today, Dr. Leslie-Ann Williams discusses her seven commandments of positive patient interactions.

The field of medicine is so complex that it has been described as learning to speak a foreign language and in order to provide effective patient care, physicians must be able to act as translators for their patients to communicate vital health information.

Dr. Leslie-Ann Williams, founder of Healing Wings International, recognizes the vital significance of positive interactions whereby her patients are able to walk out of her office healthier than when they came in. For Williams, medicine begins and ends with a healthy physician-patient relationship: "[patients] are in a partnership with me for [their] good health."

Dr. Williams has truly mastered the art of engaging with patients on a human level - so much so that her patients refer to her as “Dr. Sunshine”. Read on for Dr. Sunshine’s seven commandments for building a healthy relationship with your patients.

  1. Be yourself. During medical school, doctors are training to take care of the patient while maintaining professional conduct - but this attitude of professional detachment removes the physician from the human aspect of medicine. At the end of the day, medicine is just people treating people: “Doctors are people, and patients like to know that,” says Dr. Williams. “Before you ever meet with a single patient, you should get to know who you are and learn to love who you are. Your relationship with yourself as a human being affects every other relationship in your life - most especially the ones you have with your patients.” It’s ok to have fun, sing, dance...be real.

  2. Be an advocate for your patients. Think of yourself and your patients as members of a team working together towards a shared goal of better health. “Do for your patient what you would do for yourself or loved one. My mantra throughout my entire career has always been, ‘If you wouldn’t do it to yourself and you wouldn’t do it to your family members, don’t do it to your patients.”

  3. Know that your patients are more than their diagnosis. “I find it very aggravating when I hear medical professionals referring to patients as ‘the diabetic’ or ‘the hypertensive’. As physicians, we must honor and respect our patients and be fully aware at all times that we aren’t treating a diagnosis. We are treating human beings with a particular illness or condition, and these people are often frightened and uncomfortable. Approaching patients with compassion is essential for them to have trust in you.”

  4. Get in tune with your patients. “Ultimately, being in tune with the emotions of your patients will help you treat them effectively and be a better healer. Learn to pick up on your patient’s non-verbal cues - body language, facial expressions, and so on. When you and your patient are on the same wavelength, you can see how the floodgates will open for them to start communicating with you more openly.”

  5. Recognize how your attitude influences your patients’ attitude.Remember that with patients, you are always in a leadership role. Your patients didn’t go to medical school, so they take their cues from you. They look to you for guidance so if you present a different, hopeful way of looking at their situation, your patient’s entire outlook on their health will be affected by that.”

  6. Be open and honest - even if it’s uncomfortable. “Physical and mental health are very personal topics, so it’s understandable for many patients to have trouble opening up to a complete stranger. I’ve found that addressing these uncomfortable topics head-on, with a non-judgemental attitude helps patients open up greatly. You must always be empathetic and never shame your patients - some of these issues are embarrassing for them to discuss, but we are all human.”

  7. Remember that you are blessed. Always remember that medicine is a privileged profession, we are privileged to share in our patients’ most intimate life events. Never take this for granted and never take the trust afforded you for granted.


Dr. Leslie-Ann Williams is a native of Trinidad and Tobago and currently lives and works in St. Thomas, where she practices Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at Healing Wings International.

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