Thanks to a friend for pointing out the new manual, On Becoming Elderwise, from my favorite “renowned expert in everything,” Gary Ezzo. Actually Ezzo hasn’t written anything on that age group yet, but Dr. Momma has a little parody for us here.
Like her, I’ve found that Ezzo’s advice works, not just for putting babies in their place, but for anything.
For instance, when a friend of mine opened his new pediatric clinic, I offered him the following from my manual: Preparation for Pediatrics: a Biblical Perspective. Pediatrics-Wise is, of course, the secular version. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve been to the doctor’s office many times. As a professional, therefore, I offer these instructions.
You have revealed a dangerous, secular humanistic tendency to place the client at the center of the practice universe. If you want to avoid the evils associated with a client-centered practice, you must treat clients as a welcome addition to the practice, but not the center of the practice universe.
New doctors can easily get lost in the wonderland of a long-awaited medical practice: the upturned faces looking to you for help, the thrill of using your skill and insight to relieve their suffering, the delight in seeing children recover from dangerous diseases. Before you know it, patients have become central to your practice.
Remember that you and your partners had a medical practice before any clients came along. You must continue to make the relationship with your partners your priority relationship.
No one plans to be client-centered. It happens when medical practitioners experience heightened gratification from providing needed treatment to their injured or sick clients. What you need is a strategy to avoid client-centered pitfalls.
1. Remind yourself that life does not stop once you have clients. Just because you have opened a busy new pediatric practice, you do not stop being a golfer, collector of antique firearms, gardener of rare orchids, closet violinist, or candidate for the board of the local water district. Be sure to maintain these activities now, during the early weeks and months of establishing your practice.
2. Let your patients occupy themselves in the waiting room while you have a weekly round of golf with your partners. Invite your old med school chums to play too. Organizing these outings and practicing hospitality in this manner forces young pediatricians to take the focus off their patients.
3. If you never have taken a weekly afternoon away from the office, when your medical practice first opens is a great time to start. Do not worry about your clients. Clients do not experience impatience and anxiety when their doctor is out golfing with the office partners. Why do you think they call the reception area a “waiting room?” This is where clients learn to wait. It builds character.
4. Practice couch time. When you come into an examining room, sit down and chat with the nurse for 10 minutes. Do not allow the patient to interrupt. When your patient coughs, moans, vomits or exhibits other disruptive behavior such as trying to join the conversation, tell him or her, “This is Dr. Bob and Nurse Susan’s special time together. Dr. Bob will attend to your symptoms in a moment, but Nurse Susan comes first.” Your patients will observe this expression of togetherness with your nurse and will feel secure.
Etymologically, sick and injured clients are called “patients” because they must learn the biblical virtue of patience. There is no better time to learn this life skill than during times of vulnerability and weakness. Wise physicians know that a patient must learn from the start that giving is as important as receiving.
If your patients never learn to put others first, their lives will be crippled in a much more serious way than any slight delay in treatment could cause. Prompt treatment often causes more problems than it solves.
In summary, many young doctors are taken captive by the notion that a client-centered pediatric practice is biblical. Working from a biblical mindset and practicing pediatric care-on-demand can never be harmonized, since the two are incompatible philosophies. And that being the case, isn’t it pleasant to realize that weekly golf games and plenty of time to visit with your attractive nurses are an integral part of the godly Patientwise patient management plan?