My recent experiences as a naturopathic intern at the Lombard Student Clinic have inspired me to reflect on the beautiful and powerful potential of strong doctor-patient relationships. This topic is actually something that I also pondered about while I was still in my observation rotation several trimesters ago (before becoming a naturopathic intern).
At that time, I observed and acknowledged a particular quality of the doctor-patient relationship that I found especially powerful—presence. When those in the doctor role were fully present, I observed that they were able to more easily connect with the patient’s needs, communicate more effectively, and interact more naturally and genuinely, all of which contributed to stronger, more respectful doctor-patient relationships. At that time, I theorized that this would ultimately serve as the foundation to establish more trust and an increased therapeutic potential, which would support other downstream beneficial impacts (i.e. increased patient compliance, improved health outcomes).
At that time, I was “only” an observer of the doctor-patient relationships that I was able to witness in the clinic. I was “only”able to observe patterns that I picked up on while witnessing these interactions, and I simply projected potential clinical effects that may result from strong relationships. At that time, I could not verify for certain if my presumptions were true.
In the last 10 months of being a naturopathic intern, I can now say with certainty that my presumptions are, in fact, true. I experienced several examples of where a strong doctor-patient relationship grounded in presence supported positive interpersonal and communication interactions and opportunities. Strong doctor-patient relationships built increased trust and therapeutic potential, which made patients more likely to communicate about their unique needs, challenges, and discover potential solutions to their challenges. Strong relationships also created the groundwork for patients to be more open and curious. I have personally found that these factors contribute to increased compliance when it comes to treatment plans, which ultimately positively impacts clinical outcomes. For those in the doctor role of the doctor-patient relationship, something as simple as maintaining presence has the capacity to unlock real, tangible benefits that positively impact the patient. I am honored that I have experienced firsthand the beauty and potential that lie in strong doctor-patient relationships.
Meet some of NUHS’ ND graduates here.