Assume I’m as dumb as a rock


I had an eye infection and went to see a doctor. I won’t do my usual rant about not making the patient (client) wait for 40 minutes before you see them, as if their time isn’t important, and if there’s an emergency, to explain that and apologize, because that’s what a professional who cares about people would do.

No. I’ll save that for another day.

Today, I want to address another issue. Making sure your patients (clients) understand you.

The doctor had a lot to tell me about the care and treatment of my eye, including what to do now and what she will have me do later if things don’t clear up. The problem? She delivered this information rapid-fire, with a foreign accent, through a mask, and I didn’t catch most of it.

No problem, I thought. I’m sure she’ll give me some instructions to take home. Maybe a link to a video or two, so I can see what to do and how to do it.

Not so much.

They gave me a list of things to get at the pharmacy, but no instructions about how to use them. No, it’s not obvious, and it’s my eye and I don’t want to wing it. So now, I have to call the doctor’s office and have them explain it to me.

Doctors (and lawyers) need to spell things out. Assume your client (patient) knows nothing, is distracted by their problem, and not able to process and remember all of your information or advice.

Assume they are as dumb as a rock because in that moment, they probably aren’t their usual clear-thinking self.

If you have a new PI client, for example, and you tell them to keep a “pain journal” to document their aches and pains, their sleepless nights, the medications they took, and so on, you may assume that your advice will literally go in one ear and come out the other.

Assume they didn’t hear, didn’t understand, and won’t remember everything you said. Or anything.

Give the client detailed written instructions. Explain what you want them to do, how to do it, and why it is so important to their case. Give them some examples, so they can see how much to record. And have them email you their notes once a week, so you can make sure they’re doing it, and doing it right.

Because your clients depend on you to take care of them. And sometimes, that means assuming they are as dumb as a rock.

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