Setting the stage: Surgery patients' expectations for greetings during routine office visits

J Surg Res. 2009 Nov;157(1):91-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2009.03.065. Epub 2009 May 3.


Background: The need for surgeons to exhibit adequate communication skills is paramount to providing exemplary patient care. The manner in which patients are greeted by their surgeon sets the stage for the remainder of the clinical encounter. This study examined patients' expectations for greetings upon meeting a surgeon for the first time.

Materials and methods: A convenience sample of 152 English-speaking patients (> or =21 y of age) attending a university-based vascular surgery clinic were recruited to participate in this study. Eligible patients were interviewed prior to their consultation using valid and reliable questionnaires to obtain data about sociodemographic characteristics and expectations for greetings upon meeting a surgeon for the first time.

Results: Patients' mean age was 61.4 +/- 14.6 approximately half (n = 81;54.3%) were male, and most were Caucasian (n = 148; 97.4%). Most (n = 132; 86.8%) patients wanted the surgeon to shake their hand, 113 (74.3%) wanted their first name to be used when a surgeon greets them, and 86 (56.6%) wanted a surgeon to introduce him/herself using his/her last name. Patients also desired for surgeons to be attentive/calm and make patient feel like a priority, adjust vocabulary and/or explain better, and be friendly, personable, polite, respectful, and/or courteous.

Conclusions: Surgeons should shake hands, use patients' first names, and introduce themselves using their last names when greeting patients for the first time. They should also be pleasant, personable, and make the patient feel like a priority. Additionally, surgeons should be cognizant of the way in which they present information to patients and verify understanding.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • General Surgery*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians' Offices