Learning to Listen

Every physician is taught to listen to patients. Every physician acknowledges it’s an essential skill. Yet, study after study shows physicians interrupt their patients within a few seconds of their patients’ oral presentation of their problem(s). The author, Prof. Terry Hannan, MD, teaches us to shut up for a few minutes. If we do so, medical care will be safer, more efficient, kinder, and patients will help clinicians be better healers.

This book convincingly demonstrates the value of listening to patients; of discovering what is missing or wrong in the chart, of understanding the real etiology, and of the all-powerful value of honest communication.  The book is a passionate defense of the physician as a human being who can listen and communicate with patients to help heal and understand. The physician, granted awesome authority and respect by society, is in a unique position to help patients understand and heal themselves in addition to bringing the needed care and science for their benefit. Included here, is knowing when to prevent unneeded care.

All of that said, the reason everyone should read this book–both clinicians and lay readers–is for the short stories of patient’s lives and experiences as they impact their illnesses and the role of healthcare.  The stories are inevitably warm, humane, sensitive, and insightful. They give us hope for humans’ ability to help others, or at least to understand and ease their pain.

Each of the stories is this very short book is only a page or three long. Each is personal and poignant.  Each gives us hope for medical care and for humanity.

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