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The problem of premature reassurance

Acceptance also enables us to avoid the trap of premature reassurance. Simple reassurance by itself may not be an effective supportive response (Wasserman et al 1984). Often reassurance is given before adequate information has been obtained, before patientsí concerns have been discovered and before rapport has been developed. Unless we obtain sufficient information first, reassurance may sound false. Unless we understand our patientsí fears, we may be addressing the wrong concern. Unless we have developed rapport with the patient, reassurance may well be interpreted as indifference or as being dismissive. And lastly, unless appropriate and relevant information is provided to back up our reassurance, patients will not understand the basis for our assertions (Kessel 1979). Acceptance prevents premature reassurance - by discovering and accepting the patientís concerns, trust is developed and more information can be obtained about the patientís illness and their concerns before an opinion is offered. Reassurance when it comes can then be appropriately timed, properly explained and matched to the patientís concerns. 

Before we have collected further information or ordered tests we may not be in a position to provide reassurance that there is nothing to worry about. But we still have much to offer. We can accept the patientís concern and then use reassurance in other more appropriate ways. Instead of reassuring about the disease, we can for instance reassure the patient about our intent: we can offer our support by demonstrating that we wish to work with the patient and that we will give careful attention to their concerns.

So what are the key skills that help a doctor to reassure a patient appropriately?

so before you attempt to reassure:

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 discover and show interest in the patientís thoughts, ideas, fears and concerns and expectations

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examine the patient appropriately and share your rationale for the examination and the findings too

 

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