As a consultant, I’m sometimes asked to evaluate physician interactions with patients. Sometimes it’s via a camera in the room, watching a recording, or live, and other times I’m in the room, introducing myself as a colleague with an interest in watching Dr. X in action.
The reasons vary. Poor patient reviews, clinical skills questions, and behavioral issues are common. Since the physicians always know I’m there (remotely or in person), it doesn’t take a genius to know that they are on their best behavior.
The results are often that it’s clear that we know how we should behave, but don’t always take the time to do it right. Those that clearly behave poorly when I’m in the room have issues that may or may not be solved. They are often unaware of how they come across to patients.
Videotaping and replaying an interaction is a very useful tool. Sometimes, acting lessons are the order of the day.
Be Present for Your Patient
Time is a great thief. It’s a commodity that cannot be replaced or bought. Just as we are exhorted to “take time to smell the roses” and “place importance on family,” it is also important that we are in the moment with each and every patient.
The most liked clinicians are the ones who have the skill to be with the patient in front of them, forgetting (not completely, but just for the moment) their schedule, the sick patients elsewhere, their personal issues, etc. They are there with the patient in front of them for every minute they have face-to-face or on the phone.
It’s hard. Sometimes, you have to excuse yourself, recognize that you are not there, and step out and catch your breath. The patient would rather sit another two or three minutes without you or reschedule, than have you obviously distracted in the room.
How to Manage Your Anger
Is a patient making you angry because of his or her comments? Recognize the anger and don’t react from the anger or emotion that has gotten to you.
Take a breath, count to 10, and step out of the room if necessary — but excuse yourself and come back when you can react logically and not emotionally. Be the professional we all know we need to be. Stay with the patient in front of you.
Pretend you have an observer in the room watching how you behave with that patient. Ask yourself the questions you know I would ask if I were in the room with you watching how you behave. Recognize when you are reacting emotionally, and not logically, and take a moment to get back to acting like the professionals we all need to be.