For many patients, the worst part of the doctor visit is getting on the scale.
Weighing themselves in front of another person can cause a high degree of fear, anxiety, shame or discomfort. What’s more, confronting that dreaded number can become a trigger unhealthy, obsessive or compulsive behaviors, especially for people with eating disorders.
That’s why certain people will decline the weigh in portion of their appointment. Because as a medical patient, it’s part of their bill of rights. When prompted with the scale, they can simply ask to skip that step. Or they can call the office ahead of time and alert their doctor. Or they can weigh themselves at home and use that number instead.
Some patients will even proactively tell the nurse, no thanks, it’s not relevant to my visit.
Good for them. Each of these examples are empowering boundary setting tools that help reduce the patient’s experience of anxiety. By stating their needs around the weighing process, they are taking a very real and potentially vulnerable step towards true self care.
In fact, when I think back to certain doctor visits, I wish I would have had the courage to decline the scale. Of course, doctors still have to do their jobs. They took an oath to do no harm. And in many cases, body weight is a critical factor in effective treatment.
The question is, what happens when a medical professional needs to obtain a patient’s weight, but doesn’t want to create an uncomfortable moment during the visit?
They ask patients to step on the scale backwards. Facing out. With no number in sight. That way, the doctor gets the information she needs, and the patient avoids a potentially stressful experience. Everybody wins.
The first time I heard about this trend, I was astounded. Step on the scale backwards. It’s a simple, easy, respectful and powerful moment of patient care. And there’s a lesson each of us can apply to our own lives.
How might we make communication a relaxing experience? How might we honor people’s boundaries in a memorable way?
That’s the hallmark of approachable service. And it scales.
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That Guy with the Nametag
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