Something Extra

The pressures of time, the complexity of our patients’ needs and today’s documentation requirements can easily make a medical provider feel less than generous these days. We must counteract that in order to carry on as healers.

All day long, I am conscious of the time as I work my way through my long list of fifteen minute encounters. But I am also conscious of the fact that the more pressure I feel, the less empathic I can become, and the less effective I am in building and maintaining the relationships that lie at the root of my ability to care for my patients.

It is only because of those relationships that I am in any way able to tell a fellow human being what to do; it is that relationship that allows me to reassure someone in just a few words with only my demeanor and the tone in my voice.

I can only cover so many issues and help solve so many problems in fifteen minutes, and I have long been aware that some of those minutes need to be time spent nurturing the relationship that allows me to be my patient’s doctor, not just any doctor.

I have made it my golden rule to always be realistic about the size of the agenda of every patient encounter, but to also always give something extra that the patient didn’t ask me for. By thinking and working like that, I have found myself less frustrated at the end of each day, more energized and, I believe, more effective in my craft.

That extra effort with each patient can take different form: Sometimes I personally bring a wheelchair bound patient back out to the reception area, sometimes I show an animal lover a picture of my horses or miniature goats, sometimes I tell a child a story of when I was their age, and sometimes I just give a more detailed explanation of a medical issue and tell the history behind the medication or treatment I am recommending.

It’s like when you give or get a humble gift that is wrapped really neatly with carefully chosen matching paper and a hand-made instead of stick-on bow.

It isn’t calculated this way, but not only does that little extra in every visit help create a more healing atmosphere in the medical encounter, it also creates an emotional bank account so that in those situations when I do have to rush or when I can’t deliver the help my patient was hoping for, they are more likely to still understand that I am only doing the best I can.

2 Responses to “Something Extra”

  1. 1 marc lippman MD October 3, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    personally i reject the entire premise of working within a 15 minute interval.
    what platitude shall i suggest ? one size doesn’t fit all ? how silly to confuse someone with flu like symptoms and someone whose world is crashing apart ? when did we give up the keys to the castle and become something out of a piecework industry ?

  2. 2 Isobel Potts October 3, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    There should be extra time allowed for those of us who seldom visit the doctor…

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.


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