Blind World Magazine


Ireland.
Doctors have a lot to learn when it comes to dealing with patients who are blind.





June 16, 2005.
Irish Health.




Doctors have a lot to learn when it comes to dealing with patients who are blind, according to an occupational therapist working in TCD who is herself blind.


Bethan Collins, writing in Forum, the journal of the Irish College of General Practitioners, says anecdotal evidence suggests a lack of awareness among GPs and a lack of assertiveness among blind people can create many of the communication difficulties that exist between the two groups.


Ms Collins gave the example of one blind person who when attending a GP, was told by the doctor:"there's a seat over there", following which the doctor (presumably) pointed to the seat.


The patient then asked where the seat was and the doctor replied-"over there" again trying to point the seat out to the blind patient.


The patient then pointed out to the doctor that he was blind but again the doctor pointed to the seat and told the patient it was "over there."


According to the article, the consultation continued with a number of further faux pas, culminating in the doctor saying to the patient: "I'm giving you this prescription", holding the prescription out without putting it into the blind patient's hand.


Prior to the consultation, the doctor's receptionist had been told that the patient was blind, according to the article.


Ms Collins said an important element in promoting good communication between doctors and blind and visually impaired patients is the doctor giving adequate descriptions to the patient.


For example, doctors explaining to the blind patient what will be done before a physical examination; and giving clear verbal descriptions if the patient is required to perform specific movements or actions, rather than the doctor simply saying "do this", and gesturing.


Practice staff, according to the article, should offer an elbow to the blind person entering the surgery.


For those patients who do not want to make physical contact, practice staff, according to the article, should also clearly tell them of obstacles in their way when entering the surgery.


Ms Collins said blind people are calling for more awareness, particularly among professional groups such as doctors, of the needs of blind people.


She said if information about guiding, access to information and more accurate conceptions of blindness were readily available, the current communication issues would be a thing of the past.



Source URL: http://www.irishhealth.com/?level=4&id=7693.




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