Number three on my list of top 10 tips to be a successful, productive orthopedic massage therapist is, make the client feel that you are a partner in their health journey and that you are invested in them. I am going to break this tip down into six steps that you should take with each patient.
- Take the time to talk to your clients and ask them questions. Get a full understanding of where they are coming from, what they are going through, and what their goals are. Then convey their situation back to them to make sure you understood what they told you and give them an opportunity to correct you if you misunderstood. Make sure that you are both on the same page.
- Take the time to listen to them. Sometimes what your patients talk about is completely unrelated to their massage therapy. They might be worried about their child or their job, or they might be having problems with their significant other. This can affect the results of their session. Take the time to listen with empathy and let them vent. We are not psychologists, we don’t need to advise them, but we can listen. Venting can be cathartic and help a patient let go more as they are working on them so listening to them can be very productive. It can also lead to information that will help us treat them.
- Show concern for the patient. Show them that they are more than just a body on your table making you money. Ask them questions that don’t have anything to do with their therapeutic goals. Ask them how they are doing and remember the personal tidbits they share with you. Ask about their dog, their kids, their job, their vacations. Make notes about these personal conversations so you can engage them the next time they come in. Show your patients that you view them as a person and enjoy seeing them and enjoy the relationship that you have.
- Follow Up. Talk to your patients outside of their sessions with you. A simple text, email or phone call will reinforce that they are more than a time slot on your schedule. It shows that you are invested in their case and care about their wellbeing.
- Be specific in your instructions and recommendations. Don’t give textbook suggestions like drink more water, stretch, exercise, and eat healthily. We all know these things are good and suggesting them to your patients will feel more like nagging than care instructions. If I want a patient to drink more water, I will give them a specific daily target for their body, if I suggest stretching I will demonstrate a stretch, if I tell them to avoid or limit doing things I am going to tell them why and for how long so they understand it and make educated, personal decisions. Equipping your patients with “why and how” gives them more control over their health and helps them take responsibility for their self-care. Lack of clear communication and education from medical professionals is a huge contributor to most people’s frustrations with their healthcare. The more information you give your patients, the less your treatments will feel standardized and assembly line style.
- Be available for your patients to reach you with questions or feedback outside of their paid time. This can be a quick email or text and does not have to take a lot of time. Often a patient will have been dealing with some issue between sessions and then they don’t tell me about it until they come in for their next session. I ask them “Why didn’t you tell me about this so I could help you care for yourself between sessions? My patients know that I am there for them as a resource and that they don’t have to wait for their time in my office where they pay me for them to use me. This is a huge part of what sets us apart at Body Fix Therapies. This will allow your patients to trust you more which will make your treatments much more effective.
As you work with your patients in your practice, make sure that you do whatever you can to make your patients feel like you are a partner in their health journey. For more information on what it takes to be a successful massage therapist, I encourage you to join my group of massage therapists on Facebook or follow along on my podcast.