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Bad Bedside Manner

Updated: May 12, 2021

Bedside manner as defined by Merriam-Webster is "the manner that a physician assumes toward a patient". Basically, it is how a physician acts towards or treats a patient. It is not limited to the hospital setting, but includes the treatment of the patient in the exam room or wherever there might be a doctor patient interaction.

The relationship between doctor and patient is not an equal relationship. A patient comes to a doctor for advice whether in good health or poor. The patient assumes the doctor has the information, knowledge, and quite frankly the power to help the patient. It is an unequal relationship of power where the doctor has the power and the patient does not.

As a patient advocate, I have been in and out of a multitude of exam rooms and hospital

settings. The physicians who approach their patients with a sense of empathy are the ones I recommend my clients to see. Doctors who approach their patients as individuals, who care about them as a whole and not just focus on their diagnosis or specific body part, usually have patients who follow their advice because they know that the doctor considered their entire well being when coming up with a treatment plan. They believe that what the doctor is recommending is in their best interest.

When my child was in 4th grade, he had a horrible teacher. The principal finally agreed to meet with us after many requests. What the principal said during that meeting has stayed with me for all these years. He knew that the teacher had no control over the class. She was constantly putting out fires and couldn't move forward with her lessons. She had no time to spend with the pupils who were behaving. He told us that she was a good teacher and likened her to a physician who was an expert in their field but with a bad bedside manner. He said that you would still use that physician even if they were not pleasant in their interactions. I told him no. I don't care if that doctor is the best in the country, a bad bedside manner is unacceptable to me. My son consequently spent the rest of the year in a private school.

Poor behavior and disrespect is not acceptable in any profession. I think it is time we call bad bedside manner what it really is... rudeness.


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