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BCH Listens: Dr. Elizabeth Cruse: 'Even If You're Not Speaking, You're Communicating'

Elizabeth Cruse

BCH Listens: Internal medicine physician Dr. Elizabeth Cruse has a unique philosophy of care as it relates to listening to patients -- treating her patients as neighbors.

"I try to treat everybody the way I would like to be treated," Dr. Cruse said in an interview. "I try really hard to go in open-ended, asking an open-ended question: 'How’s it going today? What can I do for you today?' Because that’s the way I feel. I’m here to help them. They’re my client. My patient. Just like you’ve invited somebody into your house, that’s how you treat them. I sit down. I put the computer to the side. I’m not someone who can type and listen at the same time. And then I really try to be quiet. And really let them talk."

Dr. Cruse said there's a study that found some providers interrupt patients within 18 seconds when they start to talk. "And so I really let them tell their story … it’s really not speaking at first. And really sitting, watching my body language. Leaning forward. Looking at the person in their face and just paying attention to the way my body is versus how they are. I think those things are very important. Even if you’re not speaking, you’re communicating."

Teamwork is critical: “It’s not just me it’s my MA, it’s the front desk, everyone,” she said. “If we’re not all working toward the same goal and have the same understanding that all of our jobs are important. If the patients are put off by the front desk then they’re not going to get to me they’re not going to be able to tell us what’s going on. And it’s not just the front desk, it’s central scheduling, it’s everybody, it’s the people who come clean our office at night because if the patient comes in and the office is gross then they’re not going to want to be there. It’s all of us so I hope that I’ve made that clear you know, I’m not the chief. It’s, ‘we’re a group, we’re a team,’" she said.

" We are part of the community, we are treating our neighbors, we’re treating our friends, we’re treating each other and if we’re not listening then we’re not going be able to provide that service."