In American culture, eye contact is considered important to open, honest communication. Americans usually think that someone who does not make eye contact is untrustworthy or unreliable. It can make a patient very uncomfortable if you do not look them in the eye when speaking to them, especially if you are discussing something serious. It is important to establish eye contact when you greet a patient and to continue to make eye contact throughout the interaction, especially when you are talking to the patient.
Maintaining good eye contact helps the patient know that you care. It also helps the caregiver know that the patient understands his or her instructions.
Is making eye contact difficult for you because you find it disrespectful? Try your best to get into the habit of making eye contact, and if you find yourself unable to change this habit, then be honest with the patient about why you are not looking at them.
Do you have a patient who does not make eye contact with you or looks away when you try to make eye contact with them? Consider that they might come from a culture where eye contact is viewed differently than it is in American culture. Be aware of this and honor the patient’s culture by trying to adapt to it whenever possible without compromising care.