Skills Building Link

Suggestions for Trust-Building Across Cultures

  • Discuss mistrust openly
    If the patient seems open to it, discuss why they might feel mistrustful of doctors or medical care in general. Reassure them of your intentions to help. "You've mentioned that you don't really like coming to doctors. Was there anything in particular that led you to feel that way? (Any bad experiences or concerns?)


  • Understand the patient's perspective and what's important for her/him, especially when different than yours.
    "What are your thoughts about having this operation?"
    "What were you hoping that I could do for you today?"


  • Provide focused reassurance
    After determining the patient's perspective and what they are most concerned about, focus your reassurance on those concerns.
    "You've told me that the pain is what you're really worried about so I'm going to make absolutely sure that you'll have enough pain medication after the operation."


  • Build a partnership with patients
    Many mistrustful patients respond well to being given options and some control over their health care decisions.
    "I would recommend taking some anti-inflammatory medication, but if you prefer not taking anything we could see how that goes for a week or two."


  • Communicate clearly and effectively
    Listen carefully and avoid medical jargon
    Check in regularly for feedback from the patient


  • Demonstrate thoroughness and competence
    This would seem to go without saying but make an effort to show it.
    "I'm going to do a full physical exam today and get a set of lab tests that includes______ to make sure everything is OK..."