In part III of this series I discussed Apperception’ and how we can use tangible objects to demonstrate intangibles and how we can use like’ comparisons to better communicate difficult concepts. In Part IV, I will discuss the importance of visual illustrations in our communication with patients.
Illustrations to Retain Images
In teaching, engaging students´ senses is far more powerful than mere words. Visual things that can be seen by the naked eye leave a vivid and lasting impression that is easily called up’ on the movie screen in the mind´s eye.’ This is why it is so important to have as many visual object lessons available in your office to help make your point clear, understandable and memorable.
Close your eyes for a moment and think of a place that you walked by and the smells you associate with that particular place what do you recall smelling as you walked past a bakery, a bar-b-que restaurant, a paint shop, etc.? Now think about cashmere, velvet or silk one of the first things that come to mind is how these materials feel when you touch them. How do you remember your vacation? Do you recall how beautiful the ocean beach looked, or the mesmerizing sound of the pounding waves? These memories are easily recalled because your senses were used in their creation. The more you involve the senses of your patients, the more they will learn and be able to easily remember what you have taught them.
The Plastic Spine
Let´s review some of those visuals that will help you conduct the most effective report-of-findings. Every doctor should use models of the spine. There are models available that demonstrate intricate nerve flow with illumination and colors, different types of herniated discs, ligamentous tears, stages of degeneration and misalignments. Using these plastic models will provide your patients´ minds with lasting images. Get your patients even more involved by letting them use their sense of touch’ by handling these models. This added sensory stimulation of feeling something’ will greatly add to your patients´ memory reservoirs of what you are trying to teach them.
Normal vs. Abnormal X-Rays
Always use normal x-rays on view boxes first so that patients can see what a normal spine should look like. With that normal image in their mind´s eye, patients can more easily see the contrasts when they view their own x-rays on the view box. For example, x-rays of the right and left lateral bending lumbar (similar to flexion and extension of the cervical area), will help your patients better understand their spinal dysfunction when their x-rays are compared to those with normal function. Other x-ray views can be used to show lateral tilting, rotations, disc thinning, degenerative arthritis, hypo or hyper lordosis/kyphosis and other findings.
A picture is worth a thousand words’ and the use of professionally designed charts will save you a tremendous amount of time in verbal explanation. Charts should be attractively framed and hung in each of your treatment rooms. Select charts that you will most often use, for example charts on osteology, the central and autonomic nervous system, degenerative changes, herniated discs, posture, recovery charts, symptom vs. wellness timelines etc.
Due to its multi-sensory stimulation, one of the best teaching tools is the Neurospinalpatholator. This unique teaching aid is a living chart’ that engages the patient´s sense of touch and sight, and enhances each with its reactive illumination. As your budget allows, add one of these to your report of findings room and each of your treatment rooms. These electronic charts not only impress your patients with what you are trying to teach them, their attractive and innovative design boosts your professional image with your patients.