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Bedside Manners Matter

Health & Wellness Last updated

The mission of the American College of Healthcare Executives is to support advancement within the leaders of our healthcare system to provide ethically sound care to all patients (ACHE, 2019). When individuals are going to receive any type of health care service, there is a chance the experience could be vulnerable. And based on how that initial doctor visit goes, it can either make or break someone's dedication to their own health care journey. I consider bedside manners of all health care professionals the perfect opportunity to act in an ethical and meaningful way to ensure optimal client care.

Often times, when an individual is seeking answers to health care problems they might not be put in touch with the correct professional initially. I recently went to a pediatric neurologist to rule out seizures for my son, to discuss my birth history, and to determine if my son had suffered brain damage from two failed vacuum attempts.   

The doctor had a choice. He could have helped me, guided me, assured me, listened to my concerns, and help direct me towards the next steps in my son’s health care journey in a positive way.  Instead, he spoke down to me, insulted me as a mom, insulted me as an occupational therapist, and yelled over my son asking him what his name was. This was after I told the doctor my son had difficulty speaking. That’s not all, he actually threatened me with an MRI to prove I "was wrong."  

For days after this appointment I questioned everything I knew as an occupational therapist, early intervention expert, everything I had learned about traumatic births and being correlated to developmental delays. This doctor in 15 minutes, disrespected me, my family, and set my emotional stability on a rollercoaster. Ethnically, I question how such a doctor is able to practice. Does he truly think patients should be treated this way?

Sir William Osler, the first Chief of Medicine at John Hopkins, is still the leading example of what bedside manners should be. He set the stage with his first published textbook of medicine, The Principles and Practice of Medicine in 1892 indicating the importance of having good bedside manners to ensure appropriate and optimal patient care (Silverman, 2012). I went down a rabbit hole thinking of other people who have had similar experiences to my own. Did that interaction impact them and their health care journey in a negative way? We need to advocate and report our experiences to major healthcare providers to shift the mindset and change this pattern of unethical behavior.

The moral obligation of all medical professionals should be to treat their patients with dignity and respect (Kinsinger, 2009). If a doctor leads with their personal beliefs rather than from professional perspective their personal views could impact their quality of care. For example, the pediatric neurologist who saw my son threw his hands up in the air and said, “This is not my area and it has not been an area of neurology in over 20 years.” Moreover, he was very dismissive when speaking about occupational therapists. It was clear he had true, negative feelings towards all occupational therapy practitioners and executed his personal feelings during my son’s appointment, acting on his personal feelings and not with beneficence.

In my opinion, present day medical practitioners should channel Osler's first medical textbook. It has been THE pillar example of appropriate bedside manners intended to help guide individuals toward appropriate health care services to maintain optimal wellness and health (Silverman, 2012). So...

  • What does bedside manner mean to you?
  • Have you had a similar experience while receiving any health care service?
  • Did it impact your personal plan of care moving forward?

5 Tips to Help You Advocate for Your Child's Health Needs:

  1. Have a clear, short, overview...

    in writing, as to what your main health concerns are and any additional health history information that will be necessary. If you have the option to email your doctor, send this information ahead of time. This will now also become part of your health record.

  2. Prepare a list of questions.

    Be clear and concise. If the doctor does not know the answer, they should be able to offer support to find the right person who can help.

  3. Do not be afraid to disagree with the doctor and speak your mind.

    As long as you are respectful, it is your right to express concerns or disagreements you may have with your health care providers. If you are not happy with the level of care you received, you can submit a complaint, appeal, and request a second opinion. Please refer to your health insurance customer service department for individual direction on how to do this.

  4. Come with videos and pictures.

    Make sure to show the doctor any videos that can visualize your concerns. You only have X amount of time at a doctor visit so the more concrete information you have, the better your doctor can establish the most accurate plan of care.

  5. Trust your gut.

    When you feel something is not right with your health, it can be scary.  And as parents, no matter what, you are the parent and you know your child best. You are seeking out an educated expert to help you establish an accurate health care plan based on your individual concerns. If something does not feel right, speak up. If you feel you are not being heard, express that to the doctor.


American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) (2019). Code of ethics. Retrieved from

Kinsinger F. S. (2009). Beneficence and the professional's moral imperative. Journal of chiropractic humanities, 16(1), 44–46. doi:10.1016/j.echu.2010.02.006

Silverman, Barry (2012). Physician Behavior and Bedside Manners: The Influence of William Osler and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, 25:1, 58-61, DOI: 10.1080/08998280.2012.11928784