Five Ways to Have More Patience With Your Patients

When there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, and you’re seeing more patients than ever, it’s easy to become overworked and lose sight of the all-important doctor-patient relationship. Fatigue, stress, increasing paperwork and other responsibilities also take a toll on your patience, as well as your overall health and well-being. Instead of going day-in and day-out feeling frazzled, use the following commonsense tips to have more patience with your patients.

Build in an extra 5 minutes. If you work an 8-hour day (who does that?) and see four patients an hour, building in an extra 5 minutes per patient means you’ll lose one patient every hour – or work longer in the day. That extra time, however, can be put to good use in conversation with the patient, listening to what’s being said so that you have a more accurate picture before making a diagnosis that will be based on facts, tests and procedures.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to (or can’t) change your patient schedule load, use the time with your patient constructively. Don’t just leap to a conclusion based on the first thing your patient says. Ask appropriate questions, even if it lengthens the appointment time. Something you hear in response, or notice during an exam may lead to additional tests or procedures to rule out or confirm a diagnosis you might otherwise have missed.

Be present. When you leave one examination room and before you go into the next like a revolving door, take a few seconds to breathe in and out deeply. This is to clear your mind from one patient’s symptoms and discussion to the next one you’ll see. When you enter the next exam room, be present with that patient, truly listening and not thinking about all the other patients yet to see, the mountain of paperwork or reports you have to do, how you’ll be able to get in your daily run or other responsibilities. Being preoccupied makes it too easy to miss something important. Don’t be in a hurry to leave, as this will convey to the patient that you’re either too busy or unavailable to pay them the attention they deserve.

Use a soothing, professional tone. The aforementioned deep breathing tip also helps to calm you down, which also affects the tone of your voice. Even if this particular patient is whining or particular, belligerent or weepy, by adopting a soothing tone you will be able to maintain your professional demeanor and help defuse potentially stressful situations. Both doctor and patient should then be able to be a little more patient.

Take time for you-time. As a physician, you probably advise your patients to make room in their lives for leisure pursuits, getting sufficient exercise, doing something enjoyable on a regular basis. Take your own advice and factor in time each day to do the same for yourself. Whether this is a walk outside during lunch or heading to the gym in the complex for your own cardio and exercise routine, it is time well worth the effort. The endorphins released during vigorous physical exercise, as you well know, can help restore balance and calm and make you better prepared to be a little more patient when you see your next appointment.

Strive for balance in your life. It’s a well-documented fact that too much work is not good for your health, physical or mental. What this means for you as a practicing physician is that you have to work at carving out a life for yourself outside of the hospital, clinic or private practice.

Take vacations and week-end trips with your spouse or loved one and family. Engage in activities that have no bearing on medicine, or that you find enjoyable that may be related to your field. Take care of your bodily needs for sleep, nutrition and your spiritual and emotional needs as well. Spend time with close friends or develop new ones. Travel, read, paint, or take up a hobby or recreational activity. The net result is that you will feel less stressed and more in alignment so that when you are at work and seeing patients, you’ll have more patience with them – and with yourself.

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