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To begin ...

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The beginning of the interview sets the tone for the rest of your history and physical examination. During the introduction, it is essential to clearly define the nature of the relationship and to establish an environment that supports the patient’s comfort.

  • Start by choosing a time and place for your interview that allows for privacy and minimal distraction

  • Introduce yourself and explain your role: e.g: « Hello, my name is X. I am a X-year medical student and I’d like to talk to you today in order to get some information about why you are in the hospital, and then to examine you. Will that be alright?

  • Be honest with your level of training- state the year of medical school or residency in which you are currently enrolled

  • Remember to draw the curtain around the bed

  • If there are visitors, suggest that they wait outside while you conduct the interview and physical exam

  • Address the patient with their last name; use their first name only if they ask you to. There may be a tendency by physicians to refer to female patients by their first name more frequently than male patients. Be aware when you refer to yourself by position (Dr.) and the patient by name.

  • Define the time allotted for, and purpose of the encounter

  • If a third party (evaluator) is present, explain their role in the interview

  • Ensure that the patient is positioned comfortably and draped appropriately

  • Be aware of posture and positioning: sit at the same or lower level than the patient in a position that permits but doesn’t force eye contact; preferably on the patient’s right side

  • Be aware of your tone of voice, dressing and grooming

  • Maintain good eye contact and show interest

  • Take notes: they are essential for recording a detailed and precise history; explain to the patient that you will be doing so