A New Year’s resolution that you can share with patients? That doesn’t sound even vaguely realistic. The point is, it might be possible to share New Year’s resolutions with patients, either through actions or words, because as they help you, they help your patients. Here are some examples of how it might work.
Second-year psychiatry resident Jennifer Adaeze Okwerekwu wrote a column for STAT in which she reflected on this strategy – “A few weeks ago, I learned to run a therapy group and we started with a simple meditation that was supposed to promote mindfulness. It did, and now I carry the words of this meditation with me as I treat my many different kinds of patients.”
Learning to meditate helped Dr. Okwerekwu cope with the anger that every physician internalizes over the years of dealing with aggressive, angry, uncooperative and otherwise difficult patients. Carrying the learnings of meditation internally helped her externally and may have helped some of her patients in turn.
It is true that learning self-care, and practicing it daily, becomes a habit. It informs your interactions with others and that can include patients. It makes it possible to show them any number of helpful characteristics including humility, hope, and compassion.
Living In The Moment
When Darria Long Gillespie, MD, MBA, FACEP made New Year’s resolutions it included the following: “Be in the moment. It may sound cliché, but if working in the ER has taught me anything, it’s that the time we have is short. So, put down the phone and really focus on your child when you play with her. Stop thinking of what you’ll say next in a conversation and just listen to the person who’s talking. Every moment won’t be filled with fireworks – but life is richer when you’re focused on the here and now.”
That is a resolution that can certainly be applied to your patients. You certainly have to document the visit on EMR but trying to look up from the screen more and listening to your patient. Observe his or her body language and the tenor of his or her voice. There’s are a lot of diagnostic clues to be gathered from those simple observations.
Guilt-Free Time Off
Castle Connolly Medical Ltd, a physician search company for consumers, advised physicians to “use your vacation days and don’t feel guilty about it”. Imagine adopting that resolution for yourself. Then, imagine advising your patient to do the same; to seek work-life balance and reduce stress as a wellness strategy. Along with clinical, evidence-based advice, imparting lifestyle advice might contribute to improved outcomes as well.
Take Time, Even If It’s A Fleeting Moment
The American Association of Family Practice (AAFP) published New Year’s resolutions by its physicians, and among them was, “Pause before moving on to the next thing”. Here is one posted by Margo Savoy, MD,MPH, FAAFP.
“Sometimes I have a tendency to rush through my day trying to catch up and keep up. I get to the end of the day harried, exhausted, and with little sense of true accomplishment. The single greatest piece of advice I ever received was to take a “squeegee breath,” a form of micro-meditation. The basic idea is to pause for a moment – long enough for a deep breath in and out before entering the next exam room or meeting. It’s just enough time to transition myself from the last interaction and get re-centered before moving on to the next one.”
This suggestion would be especially helpful to patients who can’t seem to center themselves, pay attention to treatment and medication plans, and/or control high blood pressure. If all else fails, why not make a lifestyle suggestion that might help to improve their health?
Share Your Progress
We don’t want to belabor the point – you understand what we are trying to convey. Practicing self-care and seeking work/life balance for yourself might just rub off to your patients. Through words and actions, you can improve your life and those of your patients with a few well chosen, reasonable New Year’s resolutions.