Starting with the oncology evaluation is a great way to establish a positive first impression with your patients. By creating a process for this interaction, you will be well prepared to begin your relationship with your patients. You have the opportunity to build that relationship so you can guide them to live their best life despite a devastating diagnosis. 

I suggest you consider these five steps during your next evaluation: 

#1 Review the chart before the evaluation.

Making a good first impression requires paying attention to the chart prior to the patient’s arrival. You should always review the chart prior to the evaluation. Although we are all very busy at work, you should at the very least review the oncologist’s notes. This will give you a clearer picture of what’s happening with your new patient.  

#2 Identify the patient’s most significant or problematic complaint and focus on that.

There is only so much time we can spend with a patient, and your patient is likely to have multiple impairments. Do not attempt to treat each impairment simultaneously as this will lead to a sense of overwhelm. If you start by asking and focusing on the patient’s most problematic complaint, you are more likely to develop a plan around it.

#3 Avoid trying to cram everything into one evaluation.

The same as step number 2, avoid focusing on too many things at once. You patient is already on this journey, which can be daunting. Other tests and evaluations can always be postponed until a later date. As long as you keep the first session focused on the most important complaint, less is more. 

#4 Give yourself more time than you think you need for education.

The importance of educating your patients has been discussed in episode 162, with Dr. Wente and Dr. Hill. As you are not sure how your patient feels that day, you must keep your explanations simple and easy to understand. It takes time, and it is vital to your patient’s success.  

#5 Always schedule a follow-up visit after the initial evaluation is complete.

No matter what, always schedule a follow-up appointment before your patient leaves. The mere act of scheduling a follow-up appointment will increase your return visits. Despite the fact that some people will get busy or forget their appointments, others will show up which will enhance the benefits physical therapy can offer in their treatment. This can prevent them from showing up six months later with worsening symptoms.  

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