Patter: Good Patient Care

By Lolly Wigall

My husband Steve is an amateur magician. He became interested in magic when he was a young boy, reading magazines, buying magic tricks and perfecting them.

He has performed before audiences and developed magic routines for events.  It takes time and energy to write a script to keep the audience with you and distracted from what is really happening.

We used to attend the New York area Magic Convention sponsored by Tannen’s Magic Shop.  We were privileged to see David Copperfield when he was a teenager, who  was the final act of the Saturday night show.  We had been entertained by many top name magicians of the day who were primarily over the age of 50.

These men were experienced performers and had been making a living doing magic for years.  Their shows were basically doing a series of tricks without any story.

David Copperfield

Following the Patter

Then young David Copperfield came on stage.  He began telling a story with his words, and staging and tricks.  The story was the lynchpin that held the tricks together.  He wove his story around various tricks keeping the audience enthralled in the world he created.  The tricks he performed were not special or more elaborate than the previous magicians in the show.  But the way he flowed from one trick to another trick with his story was breathtaking.  As an audience we were carried along.

David Copperfield is now world renowned for his magic and his story telling.  His tricks have gotten “bigger”, but the story remains.   The story or script is called patter.

Patter is an interesting word.  It could even be called a strange word.  Anytime I’ve mentioned the word in a professional meeting, I get wide-eyed stares from other professionals.  Patter is basically a script that we use every time we are using the same words to express thoughts or instructions, or give a sales pitch.

Patter is used in every profession.

We are using a patter we have developed when we are explaining how to change the battery in the hearing aid.  We are using a script when we explain the audiogram to patients.  We are using the same words when we are telling the patient they need hearing aids.  We are using patter when we talk about different options available in hearing aids and the different levels of technology.

Everyone Has a Script

write_scriptMany audiologists believe they do not use a script when they are explaining test results to patients.  However, I believe if they recorded themselves they would be surprised to find they basically use the same terminology and script most of the time.

If the audiologist also sells hearing aids, and they are a good salesperson, I believe they use a script that has been carefully crafted.  A good salesman has a carefully created script.

Any professional who is good at communicating has created a good patter or script when they are talking with patients or the general public.

Recently, I have had the experience of being exposed to several other healthcare professions.  These professionals had to explain test results, outcome expectations, and care instructions.  One of the professionals was a social worker.  When she was talking to our family, it became clear to me that she had developed a patter or script.  She had certain points or points of information that she needed to convey to the family.  She had a particular order in her presentation.  It was a clear, well done presentation.  She was a professional.  I had never thought of a social worker needing a patter, but I appreciated her clear presentation of information in a natural conversational manner.

If you look up patter in the dictionary it is defined as a “smooth-flowing continuous talk, such as used by a comedian or salesman”.  Other words such as “spiel, elevator pitch, sales pitch” are mentioned.  These words have a negative connotation for most people.  But, any performer who is good has developed a patter in their profession.  Think of any comedian.  Think of their “come-backs” to audience members.  All of those lines are well crafted and well-rehearsed.  They are not spontaneous.  But, they are so well planned and rehearsed, it seems seamless and spontaneous.  This is patter at its best.  When patter seems like it is natural, conversational, and spontaneous; this is perfection.

Script for Success

Seasoned clinicians can benefit from a script as much as new grads.

Patter is what graduate students and seasoned audiologists need to develop if they want to be successful or more successful in the field.

In order to create the patter you need,  first figure out what information needs to be conveyed.  Second, find ordinary words that explain technical information–be plainspoken!  Third, have logical order to the information you are conveying.  Fourth, reduce it down to writing.

There are studies that shows if you hand write something, it is more easily stored and retrieved from the brain.  Writing it down makes it visual so you can review, edit and change it to make it more natural.  Then you should rewrite it to override your previous version.

You should also think of the responses that you would get from your presentation and come up with clear, logical, and emotional responses.  Using emotional words is good.

If you do not have a patter you may forget some of the important information or salient points you needed to convey.  It may seem like you are stumbling to convey information and you are not appearing to be a professional.  If you have a patter you can rest assured you have conveyed every point you needed to tell the patient. You need to have the routine down, so that every patient is told the same information about your practice and procedures. You need to be consistent so you can develop policies and good patient care.

It is interesting that our professional organizations are talking about outcome measures as being a great standard of care.  However, most of the outcome measures are measures with machines or surveys.

No one seems to be talking about developing a good patter to ensure good patient care so the patient can understand their hearing loss, decide to purchase hearing aids if needed, and protect their hearing in the future. Good patter, good spiel, good sales pitch is good patient care.


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