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What is a doctor’s visit and how does it work?

The doctor’s visit is, literally, just one or more doctors visiting the patient’s bed. In the specialist jargon the term „doctor’s visit“ almost always refers to the morning visit though. The assistant doctors, specialist doctors, senior physician and on some days even the head doctor (see „head physician visit“) do a round and visit every patient. They ask the patient about his/her state of health and are often accompanied by nursing staff. During the visit, the doctors discuss the patient’s diagnosis and the past therapy with him/her and plan future actions in cooperation with the patient. In teaching clinics, students get to take part in the visit and sometimes already get tasks like taking care of the patient and introducing him/her to the other doctors during the visit.

Importance of the doctor’s visit for the patient:

The visit is the best opportunity for the patient to ask any questions about his/her illness/injury and its physical and psychological consequences. Furthermore, the patient can get an explanation of his diagnosis and the suggested therapy.

If a patient has a plethora of questions I would advise to write them down somewhere because questions might be forgotten during the rush of the visit.

Importance of the doctor’s visit for the doctors:

The visit plays an important role in the operation of the ward for doctors. Mostly the assistant doctor, who has admitted and examined the patient, introduces him/her to the other doctors present during the visit. Then, as I have already mentioned briefly, the patient will be asked about his/her state of health. Furthermore, any orders for the nursing staff are taken down. The progression of the disease is also taken down. Any health complaints are treated with medication or conservative methods if possible. The doctors also discuss diagnostic measures such as X-Rays or an MRI-scan, which lab results they still require and many other things.

The visits are very different depending on the specialist area:

A surgical visit takes place at 7 am and often includes a dressing change and an assessment of the surgical wound. Patients are also visited shortly before their surgery to mark the injured leg with a pen, for instance, depending on whether this has already been done the day before or not.

During a surgical visit, only a few minutes or even less than a minute of time is spent on each patient.

In comparison, in non-surgical specialist areas, a lot of time may be spent on each patient depending on his/her medical history. This is because the different diseases are just inherently more complex. The planning of continuative diagnostics or a patient’s lack of responsiveness to certain therapy can also prolong the doctor’s visit.

Depending on the hospital and specialist area there is also a head doctor’s visit one or two times per week. The head doctor leads the visit and is introduced to the patients by the supervising doctors. For junior assistant doctors and medical students, these visits can be quite stressful.

Lastly, there is the so-called „Curve round“ which does not require the doctors to actually go and visit the patients. The patients are only discussed based on their files. Especially new lab results, CT scans, MRI images or X-Ray scans are discussed. One of the main advantages is that it saves time compared to visiting every patient’s room on the ward. Furthermore, the doctors can discuss certain questions in a quiet environment before passing their decisions on to the patient later.

Tough or potentially life-changing information should not be given to the patient in a shared room during the doctor’s visit. For such situations, a separate meeting should be arranged in a quiet environment, preferably an examination room, and ample time should be allocated.

The same goes for any clarifying information given before surgery.

In practice, there often is not enough time or space to give every patient the privacy required. Still, doctors should strive to always consider doing so where possible.

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