When demands and distractions intrude on your patient encounters, practice these three tips for being fully present:
1. Be intentional. Taking a moment to focus before entering the exam room and making a concentrated effort to be present and in the moment can be helpful. If you need help, post a sign on your office wall, write yourself a sticky note, or wear a rubber wristband as a reminder to be present.
2. Don't mistake familiarity with presence. Familiarity can sometimes cause us to function on autopilot, assume we know more about a patient than we actually do, or overlook factors that may be complicating the patient's illness. To guard against this, try asking the patient a new question – “How is your family?” “How do you feel about your illness?” or “Is anything else bothering you?” – to gain a new perspective.
3. Be careful with the use of technology. It seems that the more gadgets we have in the room with the patient, the less presence we have. To keep technology from becoming a barrier to being present, engage the patient in what you are doing by talking out loud as you complete these tasks.
Being present is a habit you have to cultivate until it becomes more routine. The good news is that practicing it can be energizing. It can restore health and provide healing not only for the patient but for you as well.
Read the full FPM article: “Be Present.”
Sign up to receive FPM's free, weekly e-newsletter, "Quick Tips & Insights," featuring practical, peer-reviewed advice for improving practice, enhancing the patient experience, and developing a rewarding career.