DFWChild / Articles / Family Life / Health / What Qualifies as Good Bedside Manner?
Pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Jason V. Terk, speaking about doctor bedside manner

What Qualifies as Good Bedside Manner?

What it really means and how to know when your doc’s got it

In our latest Mom Approved survey, we asked local parents to nominate their favorite pediatricians, pediatric specialists, family doctors and nurse practitioners. We also asked why.  Why are you recommending this healthcare provider above all others? And as it turns out, the reasons stretched well beyond medical expertise alone.  “Bedside manner” was one of the most oft-given compliments.

As one parent wrote, “[The pediatrician] has great bedside manner [and] I feel empowered as a mom after every visit. She is not only an advocate for my child but also a cheerleader to me in regard to my struggle with breastfeeding and the thoughts of mom guilt.” Others shared that their health care providers were great listeners, calmed their nerves and showed the utmost patience.

In essence, the best healthcare providers go above and beyond their strict medical training to treat the whole person. So, we started thinking more about “bedside manner” in broader terms. Which “soft skills” must providers have to foster a healthy and productive doctor-patient relationship, and thus an environment in which your child will receive the best care possible? 

For a closer look, we reached out to pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Jason V. Terk: 

DFWChild: How do you define “bedside manner” in pediatricians particularly?
Dr. Jason V. Terk, MD: The bedside manner of a pediatrician is defined by how well she/he is able to engage the parent or the child in the shared goal of providing excellent medical care to the child. The features of good bedside manner include active listening, supportive language, encouragement, and ensuring the parent and/or child is feeling like they are heard and what they are concerned about matters to the pediatrician.  

C: It seems that compassion and communication are key, and that many of the best pediatricians connect with both the parent and the patient (an infant, child or teenager). How do the best pediatricians achieve this?
DJT: A good pediatrician feels the responsibility of providing excellent care as a fundamental part of their professional mission. Central to that is sincere compassion for the patient they are caring for. Communication is a critical aspect of providing the best care and connecting with the child and parent requires unique skills that are determined by the age and developmental stage of the child. How a pediatrician engages a 3-year-old who may be anxious about coming to the doctor is very different than how the pediatrician engages a 14-year-old adolescent.  

RELATED: 5 Tips for Choosing a Pediatrician

C: Many of our parents/readers said that they will drive out of their way for a pediatric appointment if they’ve found a great doctor. What is it that drives loyalty?
DJT: Families will stick with a pediatrician [with whom] they can connect successfully and who they know puts their child at the center of their attention when they come to see them.  

C: How should parents approach an appointment with a new pediatrician? Can parents request to interview a pediatrician before bringing in their child for an appointment? Should they?
DJT: Requesting an interview with a prospective pediatrician is a great way to get a sense of whether things will click in their relationship with the pediatrician. The best care for the child is provided when trust and collaboration are present. 

C: Many of our readers have said that their pediatricians will call after the appointment to check on the child, or after referring them to a specialist. Is this an indicator that a pediatrician is going above and beyond?
DJT: Calling to check on a child who has been referred for a concerning diagnosis or who has been hospitalized is greatly appreciated by families and demonstrates to parents in a tangible way the concern that a pediatrician has for their child. 

C: If a parent feels that they’ve been shamed or dismissed by a doctor—or any healthcare professional—how should they speak up?
DJT: I recommend that the parent express their concern about any unpleasant encounter to the physician or to the manager of the practice. How they respond to the concern will speak volumes about the physician and/or practice if the concern is a valid one.  

C: What would you say to a parent who trusts their pediatrician’s medical judgments, but doesn’t feel that they’re right doctor for their family? Should parents feel empowered to go with their gut?
DJT: If a parent is not feeling comfortable with their child’s pediatrician, then there may be a lack of trust and collaboration in the relationship. Finding a pediatrician with whom the parent feels comfortable is critical to the best care being provided.