Gaining Your Patients’ Trust as a Young OD

Gaining your patients’ trust when you lack gray hair and experience lies all in your confidence and skill set. Unfortunately, it’s a fact that most people associate gray hair and wrinkles with clinical knowledge and wisdom. How do we as young ODs gain confidence and trust from our patients? This is a topic I deal with daily. I appear young but my “baby face” should not interfere with my ability to diagnose, treat or manage my patients.

Confidence all begins with how you look and feel. By dressing the part, you will radiate confidence. Our group practice may be a little different than yours. I do not wear a white coat or scrubs. I wear a suit jacket and pants almost every day because I want to feel good in what I am wearing, look poised and self-assured that I am going to conquer today! I really don’t believe in wearing scrubs to work (my personal opinion). Let’s be honest, none of us are performing surgeries (at least not yet). In addition to dressing professional, my hair, makeup and nails are always on point and also help me exude more self-confidence.

Dr. Gabriela Olivares

I always enter the room with confidence and shake the patient’s hand, introducing myself as Dr. Olivares. As soon as I sit down I start asking them about any visual or ocular problems that they are here for so I can make sure to address each one of their problems. I also probe a little further, asking them about their job and hobbies so that I can gain more understanding of their visual needs. For each patient I make sure to record this information. For example, “Mr. Watson enjoys diving; he is planning a trip to Maldives next year.” This way, when Mr. Watson comes for his eye exam next year I remember to ask him how his trip went. Now Mr. Watson is super impressed with me because not only did I give him a great eye exam last year, but also this year he returns and I remembered to inquire about how his trip went.

This next part is easy! Give them the best eye exam they have ever received. Being a new grad you should definitely be on top of your game. Talk to the patient through the exam. Let them know what you are doing and what you are looking for. During every dilated fundus exam I speak to the patient. For example, “Mrs. Smith, your optic nerve looks nice and healthy. This is the part of the eye that connects to the brain…” and so on. Any additional testing like an optomap should be explained to the patient in detail. Once you have an assessment and have made up your mind on the diagnosis and treatment it is truly your time to shine. Always be honest and make sure to take your time with each patient.

Go above and beyond with your patients. As a new doctor, your appointment book may not be full, so take that time to really wow your patients. It only takes about 3 minutes of your time to follow up with a patient you had seen earlier in the week by phone. How they are doing with the new multifocal contact lenses you prescribed?  If they are having issues, make them an appointment yourself. If they need reassurance because we all know multifocals can take about a week to fully adapt to, give them that. Make sure that your patient’s conjunctivitis is getting better with the medication you prescribed. Patients appreciate the call more than we know.

Bottom line is—if we provide excellent care to our patients and develop a good rapport with them, we will naturally gain their trust. Being fresh out of school is not a negative; we have the most up to date medical and technical knowledge right now.  New doctors like us are fully versed in the most cutting edge technology, research and treatments available. Spending their extra time to educate and connect with each patient helps them see the advantage of having a young doctor who’s excited to go above and beyond with their care. With time our faces will wrinkle and our hair will turn gray which then will bring a new set of challenges into our lives.

Always believe in yourself and have faith in your capabilities!