Microlecture 020: Should Clinicians Engage in Small Talk with Patients?

Should we do small-talk with patients to set them at ease? This may be a standard expectation in some cultures. In fact, by making patients comfortable, we can expect them to engage more meaningfully and be willing to participate and take an active role in their care. Having said that, is small talk the best use of the 10-20 min of face time we have in a typical clinical encounter? It is precious time and we want to use every drop of it to improve the health and well being of patients. Given that time is limited, what are some simple strategies to connect with the patient, set them at ease while still being mindful of limited time?