Primary care providers are a great start for whatever your health needs are, helping establish a healthier you.
Taylor Mahtook, PA, with Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s Primary Care, shares how listening plays a central role in her work as a provider by strengthening her relationships with patients.
Often patients come to a visit with concerns but may not feel comfortable naming them outright. Listening can help create a level of trust.
“By sitting and listening to our patients, we can see the barriers and concerns,” Mahtook says. “It can help me alter a treatment plan specific to them.”
Understanding what motivates a patient and how important their health is to them allows Mahtook to customize and personalize her recommendations to what’s manageable for the patient. That understanding comes through listening.
Trained to Listen
Listening is a foundational part of Mahtook’s education as a physician assistant.
“You can make a decent diagnosis just by getting a good history and listening to your patient,” she says. “The physical exam is a complement. By listening, you can get a good understanding of what’s going on before you even lay hands on a patient.”
Listening Beyond Hearing
We communicate with so much more than our words. Body language, gestures and facial expressions combine with what a patient says to tell more of the story. Mahtook and many other Our Lady of Lourdes providers are trained in a relationship-centered communication approach that takes a holistic view of provider-patient interactions. Providers learn how to use their own body language to remain active listeners and more effective communicators.
“I always try to square my shoulders, make eye contact and listen fully,” Mahtook says. “I make sure there are no obstacles between me and the patient and provide visual confirmation that they have my attention through head gestures.”
Often that visual affirmation allows patients to share more freely, especially those experiencing anxiety or depression, she says. “A lot of times you can give them the floor to talk. You’ll find out a lot just by listening.”
Patients are in control of any clinic visit. “You want to let patients know they are in the driver’s seat,” Mahtook says. “I’m here to listen and help guide and navigate.”
As the driver of their care, patients can prepare in advance for appointments with their provider.
“Before you go, take time and reflect—why are you seeing your provider today?” Mahtook says. “Write down your questions and concerns. That way, in the room, you can make sure you go over everything with your provider.”
That reflection and preparation can make each visit more productive. Ideally, it will lead to better health outcomes and a stronger partnership with your provider.
On Your Side, Building a Team
Although some patients may be hesitant to seek medical care, Mahtook reminds them that providers are on the patient’s side. She invites patients to come in with open minds.
“We’re here to help you become a better you,” she says. Sometimes that looks like constructive criticism, but it’s all about helping patients improve whatever the reason is they’re seeking care. As providers we are called to individualize medicine for our patients and see them for who they are. We are here for them and, in that moment, they have our undivided attention.”
As part of the statewide Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, our primary care providers help patients build a team for additional care needs as they arise. Mahtook likens it to the role of a quarterback.
“It’s another great reason to establish a relationship with a primary care provider,” Mahtook says. “We can help you build that care team and navigate to get where you need to go.”