Dear Nurse Wanda: The Art of Listening June 6, 2017

Charleston Cares Guest Blogger, Wanda Lefler, RN, is the Nurse Manager at Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic. Each month, she will offer her insight into patient care, health management – and the art of listening. If you have a medical question for Nurse Wanda, please e-mail your questions to

Dear Nurse Wanda: You must get asked a million different questions from the hundreds of patients who walk through the clinic doors each month, every one with their own story and unique symptoms. Where do you begin?

NW: My method for answering those burning questions from my patients?

Start simple – and move on from there.

In the past, I have worked with a large family practice. It had seven offices spread throughout three counties in North Carolina. This practice has a strong residency program for family medicine physicians, and I was the charge nurse in the main office for the residents and charge nurse of the residency program ‘specialty procedures’ clinics.

The reason I give you this information is to explain the next few lines.

I always attended the annual ceremony for those residents completing their residency training. It was a very nice ceremony, and of course, had a different key note speaker to address those who were about to embark on their chosen profession. The one piece of advice that was ALWAYS given – regardless of the background or experience of the speaker – was, “Listen to your patient.  Hear what they are telling you. Nine times out of ten, if you listen to what the patient is telling you, they will tell you what is wrong with them.”

You know, I have no earthly clue if any of those residents took the advice offered. I like to think so, because it is invaluable. No, the patient does not pipe up with a diagnosis or a diagnosis code. What patients DO tell you (and most of us are patients, as well) is where to focus the attention.

So, start simple by actually listening. A novel idea, perhaps, but one that could help us all in other aspects of life – don’t you agree?

Do you have a question for Nurse Wanda? Email her at

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic provides medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist – but it is free. We serve uninsured adults living at or below 200 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, Wadmalaw or James Islands. You can follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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