Review of BEDSIDE MANNERS, by Michael Ellner

Bedside Manners: The Pain Clinician’s Guide to Effective Medical Communication, by Michael Ellner, MSH, CHT
Review by Donald Pelles, Ph.D., CHt.

This short book can change your medical (dental, social work, therapy, etc.) practice – even your life.

Michael begins with two self-hypnosis/meditation exercises that help you access a mental state of ease and attentiveness (“relaxed and focused”). The premise is, your state of being matters, not only in how you work with your patients but in how you approach your work and your life. When you go to meet your patients with a “happy heart, peaceful mind, and playful spirit,” you will automatically convey and entrain that state to them, and at the same time, your work becomes more exciting and rewarding. A total win-win.


Rapport and effective communication enable better relationships with patients and improved information gathering, while educating and motivating them and fostering realistic expectations. Patients will understand you better and have less anxiety; they will tend to follow your directions, and have better outcomes. On the other hand, failed communications can lead to malpractice suits.


Even more important than the why, Michael tells you how (subtitles are: “What Not to Say . . . and What to Say” and “How to talk to your patients so they will listen and how to listen to your patients so they will talk”). With Intentional Listening you attend to how your patient uses language, especially his or her sensory (see, hear, feel, smell, taste) language. You then reflect back their language patterns in your responses. Tone and body language are important too, both theirs and yours. Put yourself in your patient’s shoes; understand their concerns, assess how well they understand, and adjust your communication accordingly.


Words can hurt; words can heal. Compare “Learn to live with it” (a life sentence) with “I will do everything that I can to help you” (a reprieve).


The difference between just talking to your patients and effectively communicating with your patients can be the difference between promoting pain and suffering or promoting healing and relief.


Never underestimate the healing powers of a happy heart, peaceful mind, and playful spirit!


This book is brief and to the point (an easy twenty minute read), itself an example of clear and effective communication. Highlighted “Ellner Tips” give additional pointers and examples.  In some ways it is too brief: it could benefit, in my opinion, from a few drawn-out scenarios, perhaps dialogs, demonstrating both good and poor communications.


The author, Michael Ellner, MSH, CHT, is a celebrated medical hypnotist, in private practice in New York City. He teaches and lectures worldwide and is a featured instructor of Hypnotic Pain Relief at the annual PAIN Week conference in Las Vegas.

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