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What do patients REALLY want from their health care professionals?

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health.

What questions do patients want answered the most?

Research studies have identified the most important take-aways patients want from their nurses and other health care providers.

What do patients REALLY want from their health care professionals?

According to research studies conducted at the University of Washington Medical School, there are four primary questions that all clients or patients want answered by the person they see for their health care or for health related consultations. There are variations on these questions in different circumstances and practices, however, they are all derived from the most basic need we as human beings have in our relationships and particularly with our health care professionals. The four questions are as follows:

“Are you listening to me?”

This is a critical question every client or patient wants answered in their partnership with whatever type of health care professional they are working with. Mindful, respectful listening, which commits your total presence and attention to another individual, is the most powerful gift we as health professionals can give to our clients. This form of human intimacy, valuing another so that our self-awareness falls away and we become egoless in their presence, is a healing and transformational experience for both client and professional.

“Can you explain to me how and why this is happening to me (my body or mind)?”

The great value of incorporating into your practice or work evidence-based, integrative and demystified health information is that it answers this question. For instance, you can explain to a client that processed carbohydrates are five carbon molecules which elicit insulin secretion to break down the five carbon structure.

They are chemically unlike fruits, sweet vegetables or sprouted grains that are six carbon molecules. These six carbon structures do not require the elicitation of insulin for them to be utilized in the Krebs energy cycle. (Calvin cycle – photosynthesis). This knowledge transforms an individual’s understanding from a theory about nutrition to an organic chemistry reality which explains why and how processed foods affect their body. More importantly, this information gives your client powerful tools and knowledge to make sustainable lifestyle changes.

“Do you care about what I know about my own body and health concerns?”

What they are really asking is – “Do you care about, and will you respect, what I know about the problem I live with 24/7?” As a nurse or any other health care, advocacy or counseling professional, we must always listen to and respect the person sitting before us as the foremost expert on their health condition. They may not be able to articulate the “how” and “why” of their conditions, but when provided some facilitation to fully remember all that they know, they may be better able to make appropriate changes to craft a long and healthy life.

“Can you explain to me how I can control my symptoms?”

Controlling a condition or its symptoms is often more important to an individual than “curing” the problem. This is especially true with older adults who are more concerned with avoiding the disability or pain of a chronic condition.

This is why the field of patient health education, through providing a clear understanding of how all aspects of an individual’s life may influence any given health condition, is an important addition to any health professional’s skill set. Assisting an individual to understand what they can do to take control over their symptoms and discomfort, and to create a greater sense of ease and control over their condition and/or symptoms, is of the utmost importance.

In a recent study, conducted by Michigan State University, College of Human Medicine (see attached study), the utilization of a communication and patient education model, Behavioral Engagement with Pure Presence, led to 28.5 - 33% increase in both patient and physician satisfaction.

As demonstrated in number two and four of the above questions, patients are looking for information as well as active, respectful listening in order to discern the choices they may or may not elect to make for their own self-care. Not providing appropriate presence, mindful listening and, demystified evidence-based health information withholds the tools our clients, as well as ourselves, need to truly take control of our health destiny, is a disservice to those we serve.

Value-care, the measure of reimbursement for medical services, now recognizes that disease prevention and effective patient health education are both critical in reducing the epidemic of chronic disease in our culture.

IJMB_Vol_9_1_Clipper (1).pdf

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5 Comment(s)


Specializes in ICU/ER/Med-Surg/Case Management/Manageme.

Simply amazing, Dr. Donadio! I think you were listening in on a very recent conversation I had with friends. 😀

I was recently referred (sent) to a specialist for some testing. Wow. I described him as rude, condescending, uncaring. After a 10 minute "visit" - and one I'm sure my insurance carrier paid dearly for - I left. When someone from his office called to schedule the extensive and expensive testing and began to tell me what his "protocol" was, I informed her of MY protocol, i.e., not to place my well-being in the hands of a provider who doesn't have time to address my concerns.

Listening, why, care, control? Totally lacking and the reason I refused to participate in tx with this specialist. Found another provider - closer to home - who embodies all those characteristics.

Might I add one more thing? A smile.

Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health.

Hello DallasRN,

BRAVO to you and many thanks for sharing your personal story. So uplifting to hear that you asserted your right and prerogative NOT to accept such behavior from a "healthcare provider" when he displayed none of the essentials to caring for another human being!

For over 40 years I have been working to help create and promote patient advocacy and whole health information to empower all of us to be better able to control our health outcomes - so it is very rewarding to hear your story as well as the many voices who are now being heard throughout the healthcare system asserting our right to the respect, compassion and dignity that we all deserve as human beings, let alone recipients of health "care".

Please keep sharing your story as it will inspire others to take back their rights and express their own powerful voice, leading to better, safer health care!

With admiration and many thanks for sharing,


Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health.

And, YES Dallas SMILING is the communication MOST welcome from anyone, most especially in our healthcare providers!
Warm regards,



Specializes in Hospice. Has 3 years experience.

yep yep yep and yep! All our education and experience, collaboration and safeguard support these 4. If we get that right, we are doing right. Love seeing it articulated.

Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health.

Hello Kaisu,
Thank you for confirming these four questions! Don't we all want to be treated in this way? The fun thing is to take these four questions and adapt them to any relationship or dialog we are having with another person. Many times when our friends or family are seeking our support these are the same four questions, with a different tweak to them that they are asking.

For example - if a friend calls and is asking about a situation with their partner the questions might be:

> Are you listening?
> Can you suggest why he/she/they may have reacted as they did?
> Do you want to know what I intuitively think the issue is and do you think I might be onto something with that insight?
> Can you give me some insight into how I might approach the situation until we can sort it all out together?

We all really want to be affirmed in our process of self-discernment.
instead of being told what to do. This seems to be a great solution for many situations!

Thanks so much for sharing your experience,