All a health care provider needs to have empathy for patients is to have a health related concern of his/her own, or within his/her family, to experience the many communication deficiencies in our health care system that exist.
Many times, a statement made in the midst of a patient encounter can help to establish or re-establish a relationship that might have been lost.
Things obviously don't always go smoothly in the office. Occasionally, I have to resort to a couple of old standbys to help defuse a tension filled room. Both have withstood the test of time, for the most part.
* When seeing a new patient that appears (by his body language/facial expression) to be upset, angry, disillusioned, etc., by the medical system: "You look upset. I'm sorry. I don't think we've ever met before. It's good to meet you. I'll certainly try to do everything I can to help assist with your medical needs and to be your advocate."
* When in the midst of an encounter that has, for whatever reason, deteriorated to, almost, a point of no return: "Would it be alright if we started over. I'm sorry that things got off to a bad start. I apologize. Let's start over, OK?"