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Your job is NOT to do your thing

September 8, 2017
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The title of this post may seem counterintuitive or even provocative, but it makes sense when viewed from a certain perspective. In a study of highly rated physicians,[1] one physician serves as an example of someone who fundamentally reversed how they thought about their role, leading to improved communication and patient satisfaction. Despite concerted effort and specific training over several years, this physician was unable to improve patient satisfaction scores. Eventually, the physician stopped trying and patient satisfaction remained below average. However, at some later point, the physician decided to change a single overall goal that transformed how they approached patient care.

“…what made the difference for me was a conscious decision that I wanted to be there to do something positive for my patients. Going into a meeting with a patient and thinking that the important thing was for me to be right was not what was critical for the patient. What was critical for them was that I found something to do that was acceptable to them that would help them, whatever their issue was.”

This provider made a conscious decision to avoid doing his/her “thing,” realizing instead, that their “thing” was to find something both acceptable and helpful for the patient, regardless of whether the physician was directly involved in the solution or management of it. This is consistent with the ideal of service, which is focused completely on others rather than self. In other words, the role of a provider is to understand the patient’s needs and support their choices, even when inconsistent with what a provider would personally choose. This way of thinking is a direct application of patient-centered care, freeing providers from emotionally tying to and being frustrated by patient choices, a physician-centered way of thinking.

Reference List
1. Janisse T, Tallman K: Can All Doctors Be Like This? Seven Stories of Communication Transformation Told by Physicians Rated Highest by Patients. Perm J 2017, 21.

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