Mary Jolly, a long-time patient of University Medical Center and a member of the University Medical Center Patient Advisory Council, spoke June 21 with the new class of residents at the College of Community Health Sciences. She shared thoughts and provided advice she gained from her experiences as a patient at UMC.
“From the very beginning, I’ve encountered medical students,” said Jolly. She said she enjoys working with students particularly because they are more likely to listen. CCHS also serves as the Tuscaloosa Regional Campus of the University of Alabama School of Medicine.
Jolly spoke with the students and told stories that described the important partnership between doctors and their patients.
She also shared a few thoughts and some ideas that she hoped the students would take along with them during their careers. Her main point was “being admitted to a hospital is the most vulnerable time in your life,” she shared, after telling a personal story about an experience in a hospital. Another important note was the power of empathy.
Empathy is a skill necessary for success in medicine because medicine demands human interaction. The need to tell stories is important because you can learn a lot about the patient from the stories he or she tells, said Jolly. Patients are often shy and uncomfortable around doctors (Jolly said she is not a typical patient because she is so comfortable talking with her doctors) but if a doctor asks the right questions, the patient can begin to feel more comfortable and start telling stories. It’s important for doctors to listen to those stories because they may reveal information about the patient’s condition that was previously concealed, Jolly said.
“Empathy is the key to high-value work,” she said. “Stories are powerful.”
Other advice Jolly gave to the students were tips she believed would help relieve patient anxiety:
- Knock on the door before entering a patient’s room. Jolly believes, from her own experience, the ability to tell the doctor to come into the room gives the patient a feeling of strength and control.
- Tell the patient your name and title. This is especially important for young doctors to establish credibility with the patient
- Call the patient by his or her name.
- Tell the patient why you are there. This is the most important because it lets the patient understand the role you play and how you will be able to help him or her.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to the patient.