Robin Fackrell: Our patients never forget how you made them feel

In this blog, Dr Robin Fackrell explains the importance of making the diagnosis of Parkinson's experience as positive as possible.

It was Maya Angelou that said:

We owe it to our patients to give them empathy, hope and support.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

This certainly rings true for me in the context of a patient hearing the diagnosis of Parkinson's for the first time.

We clinicians give the diagnosis of Parkinson's many times in our careers but our patients receive it just once. That day, that abiding memory will live on and colour their future experiences forever.

Making a Parkinson's diagnosis experience positive

Time is, of course, an inevitable confounder but simple things like honesty, eye contact and body language take very few additional minutes and the result will last for years.

Receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson's may be construed by our patients as a devastating blow but can we help them interpret things differently at this difficult time?

Simple things like honesty, eye contact and body language take very few additional minutes and the result will last for years.

"We now know what is causing your symptoms and we can work together to treat them and hopefully make you feel better.

"My team and I will be here supporting you from today, along every step of your journey and together I think we can make a particularly formidable team."

Compassion and honesty

Every patient's needs are different but compassion, honesty and the sense of a collaborative future approach should form the bed rock of every consultation especially those in which the diagnosis is imparted.

Conveying a sense of enablement to all and communicating the fact that you and your team will be on hand to help that individual lead the life that they want is imperative.

Information is power and sign-posting to well validated resources such as the wealth of literature available at Parkinson's UK is key.

Improving the way diagnosis is given

The presence of mind to ask questions during that initial diagnosis consultation should not be relied upon.

Patients should be given the chance to assimilate what they have been told and then given the opportunity to ask questions in the weeks following.

Without this a perception of abandonment and isolation may occur which is very detrimental to the patient experience.

I remain convinced that together as a community of Parkinson's specialists we can improve the way that the diagnosis is given and the support we offer across the disease course.

Continually striving to advance both our clinical and communication skills will only serve to improve the experience of our patients.

Dr Robin Fackrell is a Consultant Physician and Specialist in Parkinson's Disease and Related Disorders at the Royal United Bath NHS Foundation Trust.

What do you think? Please send your comments to [email protected]