We all know how important a summary is during a consultation, but still its easy to neglect to include one when you feel pressed for time. When you have ten minutes to cover a range of symptoms, check red flags, come to a diagnosis, discuss management, safety net and arrange followup recapping things you have already covered can seem unnecessary.
However, there are lots of reason that a summary can be very beneficial during a consultation,
- No matter how good your consultation skills are there will be days when you are half way through taking a history and…… Your mind goes blank. It happens to us all and its completely normal. The important thing is how to recover from these blanks. A summary gives you the opportunity to recap everything you have learned so far and get back on track.
- You can save yourself time. A summary shows that you have been listening and taking everything your patient on board. This will build rapport and help the person you’re talking to disclose any further information.
- A great way to clear up any misunderstandings or miscommunications is by summarising whats been discussed. Maybe you misheard something, maybe your patient misspoke. A summary gives you both the chance to make sure you are both on the same page. Again, by avoiding confusion you can save time in the long run on your consultation.
- Summarising the history you have taken can help your patient remember other bits of information, you can jog their memory or by listing what you know you can highlight what they haven’t told you yet.
- Another reason to summarise is that it gives you another chance to show empathy. You can express how hard or troubling the issues your patient has been facing have been, again building rapport.
- During exams it can be a challenge for the examiner to keep track of everything thats been covered from one station to the next. With the best of intentions, after seeing 20 plus candidates in a row things begin to merge and the examiner can be left wondering, did this candidate illicit that symptom or was it the last candidate. Or maybe the examiner was noting down something fantastic you just did just while you display another impressive skill. A summary can give the examiner that extra chance to tick off boxes on the mark sheet, which can be the difference between passing and failing.
Now, I’m not saying that you should sacrifice checking red flag symptoms so you can fit a summary in, but with all these benefits, a summary can save you time, build rapport and help you pass exams. When you’re practicing your consultation skills and thinking about time keeping, try and build in space for those summaries.