At the start of medical school, many students participate in the “White Coat Ceremony.” Before peers, faculty, and family, they recite a modern version of the Hippocratic Oath (or other affirmations like the Geneva Declaration) and don the short white jacket they’ll wear during the four years of school. Although they begin seeing patients only in the third year, part of the ceremony’s intention is to convey that care for patients begins, in a sense, on this first day. When they earn their M.D., they are entitled to the knee-length version.
In medical school, I was taught to sit at eye level when speaking to patients, ask how they would prefer to be addressed, and ask open-ended questions to allow them to express themselves. I learned to interject with “That must be really difficult for you,” or “I can only imagine how that makes you feel,” as a way to show empathy and foster better connection with patients.