In today's modern doctor's office, patients encounter medical office staff members, many before they meet with the doctor. These staff members can include physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, LPNs, CNAs, MPLs, medical assistants, phlebotomists, office managers, insurance clerks, etc. Everyone who interacts with a patient, however briefly, affects that patient's care. Mood, attitude, expectation, and perception are all affected. Positive and negative Micro Relationship ™ experiences are created instantly, remembered by patients and reported long afterward. Although patients have important and physically painful experiences to report, often minor encounters with caregivers (professionals of all sorts and especially physician extenders) are surprisingly, the most upsetting and memorable. The patient likely has positive and negative experiences; it is important to note that the negative experiences are the ones that are most often reported.

If a patient is gifted hurriedly at the front desk- “sign in and take a seat”, or perhaps not at all by the receptionist, this can set a negative tone for the entire visit. The patient can feel like they are mere a number and not a person. Every person who comes into contact with the patients should understand how important the contact with the patient can be. The extensive research on the effects of the doctor-patient relationship on care outcomes brings the Micro Relationship experiences with patient extenders. A positive experience at every point of contact in the office can improve patient care and healing.

Physician extenders need to have the tools and training necessary to be able to deal with many different types of personalities, situations, family members, etc. The experiences of interpersonal encounters are potentiating and affecting the processes of biology, biochemistry and physiology. That's why they should be important to caregivers who want the physical effects of their interventions to be maximally effective. Attitude, mood and perception affect bodily functions and can aid or interfere with healing. The interpersonal is the foundation for psychological effects and is the most powerful medium for them.

A single Micro Relationship experience in the doctor's office can create a mood or attitude that will strengthen or diminish compliance. Patients have the most difficulty following complex regimens, but are most likely to do so to please their caregivers. Think of that: not because it benefits them, but because it pleases their provider. That's the power of the interpersonal relationship!

Physician extenders need to understand their very important role in patient care. Sometimes it is merely taking a few extra seconds to really listen to a patient and understand their feelings regarding their care or a procedure and offer some understanding words. Physician extenders play an integral role in the doctor's office and can have a powerful effect on patients' health.

Copyright © 2012 Ralph Schillace, Ph.D.