STEP 1: SHUT UP AND LISTEN
STEP 2: EMBRACE YOUR MISTAKES
STEP 3: BE CONSISTENT
As a child growing up, I would receive a homemade red velvet cake from a friend of the family each year. It was amazing! I never filled out a survey or application, but it was as if she had my taste buds in mind while dialing up this recipe. When I went off to college, my close friends would go to our local supermarket and buy me the same cake because they knew how much I cherished this dessert. Sadly, the pastry chef from our local supermarket didn’t reach out to the one I grew up with. The level of disappointment was profound. No matter how many bakeries I tested, finding a match that was consistent with my childhood pastry chef was a mystery that has yet to be solved.
Foundation of trust
Step 2 invited great feedback from one of our peers who pointed out this concept of creating a groundwork of bedrock in which our patients and colleagues can rely. She added that this is done by owning and acknowledging our mistakes on a daily basis. As another colleague pointed out, if you begin to create even minor inconsistencies in this foundation, it could easily lead to a case like the Millennium Tower in San Francisco that has sunk 18 inches and tilted 14 inches since being built in 2008. Imagine all of the bad habits and behaviors that you could have developed after graduating 10 years ago or even three years ago that could be detrimental to your workplace environment and patients. The further out from graduation you are, the harder it is to rectify this Leaning Tower of Pisa you have allowed to develop.
The walk of shame is actually a good thing
We all encounter off days and personal challenges sporadically that may interfere with our normal ebb and flow. However, in the midst of this whirlwind, your colleagues and patients need to be able to depend on you to hold yourself accountable regularly. You then in turn provide them the privilege of knowing they can expect you to give your all daily. The legitimacy gained from this interaction allows them to feel substantiated in their decision to trust you and will keep them coming back. You don’t have to be the best at what you do, but you must act with their best interest in mind. Sorry. No exceptions.
Clean your mirrors and filter your water!!
That reflection of what you see every day has everything to do with how others see you. Why not start with making sure your perception of yourself isn’t based on a cloudy mirror. We sometimes don’t realize how much we as humans value consistency. I find this step to be one of the most vital of the group thus far as it applies to every realm of who you are as a clinician. Are you the type to greet everyone with a smile and kind words when entering a room? Are you that person that shows up on time and ready to work each day? Do you go into a treatment session with a plan that is optimal for the patient or what’s more convenient for you that day? If you begin to second guess yourself when posed with these questions, regroup and redirect your energy into being predictable for the right reasons. In a world where our patients come to us with more chaos than we can fathom, let us be the slice of red velvet cake that is whipped up as their own personal recipe, unswerving with each bite.
STEP 1: SHUT UP AND LISTEN
STEP 2: EMBRACE YOUR MISTAKES
Sometimes when we become good at a skill, we forget the countless hours of dedication it may have taken to acquire it. It’s probably safe to say, no one sets out to have a knack for being wrong. Mistakes are ultimately inevitable and are critical in this process we call professional development. The pearl lies not in being wrong, but in our ability to turn these errors in judgement into lessons that shape our careers.
No shoulder left behind
You look at your schedule today and see a 30-year-old female patient with left shoulder pain. She has been seeing one of the more experienced PTs at your clinic regularly for about 6 weeks with success. She denies having any pain over the past 3 weeks and is feeling much better. She really feels like this physical therapy thing is working and is very motivated to get back into her normal workout routine again. You’re excited for her as well and decide to get “creative” with her treatment by adding some shoulder exercises you saw on Instagram from a PT that is heavily followed. She shows up at her next appointment with her primary PT and you overhear her explaining that she now has pain in both shoulders that has interrupted her sleep.
Chess not checkers
What’s your next move? This situation can play out in several different ways. You could:
1) Run like the wind and treat it like a bad date you want to forget, hoping the primary PT never brings it up again. You fear this route will lead to your coworker never trusting you with a patient of theirs again.
2) Point the finger by explaining how the patient may have done something outside of her PT session that contributed to her symptoms because you “stuck with the script”.
3) Accept responsibility by meeting with the primary PT privately and letting them know your thought process for progressing the patient in the manner you did. If this experienced PT is indeed a Rockstar Clinician , they will turn this into a coachable moment that will forever stick with you.
Don’t get caught up in defensive driving
We sometimes fall victim to getting bogged down in the art of rebuttal so much that we begin to convince ourselves user error is impossible or only applies to those that are careless. In doing so, we miss the opportunity to learn from our utmost resource, the patient. Here’s where Step 1: Shut up and Listen is intended to set the groundwork. If our patient follows up and is feeling worse, be empathetic and acknowledge their vulnerability in coming back to you. Then make a genuine effort to dig deeper to determine a viable plan for moving forward for the both of you. There are opportunities for this every day of your career, but if you’re the type to wear sunglasses at night you’ll surely miss them.
Your Favorite PT Fellow
Meet Chris, the creator and sole author of the Your Favorite PT blog