Become Your Patient’s Favorite Teacher
It’s always interesting how life comes full circle. One of my favorite teachers growing up was my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Griswold. She had a knack for controlling her classroom and connecting with her students. Fast-forward more than 25 years later and being in a new city over 100 miles away, I ran into her granddaughter at my new place of employment who is now my coworker. I found myself filled with euphoria just hearing her last name. I was unaware of the effect she left on my life, but in retrospect, my love for school started with her.
“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.”- Brad Henry
As said before, it’s easy to assume the best teachers are always the smartest or most accomplished, but there is something to be said about developing a connection with your students. Oddly enough, as a teacher, you may not even know the connection exists. Sometimes your explanation of concepts and ability to tap into different learning styles leaves an imprint that can never be erased. Mrs. Griswold didn’t teach me long-winded algebra equations or quantum physics, but she sparked a fuse for my desire to learn. If asked, my mom will tell you that I was never the kid that needed to be coerced into going to school or reminded to do my homework. She may even add that I didn’t need to be prompted to do my chores, but that may be a bit of a stretch. We’re all perfect. Right? It was worth a try.
Don’t Ruin Their Movie
I love when a patient tells me how great their previous course of physical therapy may have been and how much they adored their physical therapist (PT). I make it a point to ask what made them switch to a new PT and what did they enjoy about their experience with that particular therapist. You will often find that the therapist was able to get the patient to “buy-in” to their approach to treating their condition in one way or another. You may also realize what the patient recollects about the experience wasn’t necessarily the most up-to-date treatment approach or even anything remotely close to evidenced based practice.
Here lies, your defining moment.
Do you dig up the roots and chop down the tree from the seed their favorite therapist has planted, or do you insightfully find another way to shed light on it? On paper, the latter seems very near common sense. In the real world, however, we may find this encounter to be draining and cumbersome causing us to go out of our way to convince the patient they were not receiving best practice. I personally, find it harder to point out the good in what could have been a less favorable way of delivering care. It is way easier to just create a new slate and just hit them with the facts! In reflecting on these situations, is it worth ruining fond memories for that person? If my 2nd grade teacher had gone out of her way to persuade me that Mrs. Griswold was a horrible person and was mediocre at best as a teacher, my tree would have succumbed as well. We as a profession, promote independence and accountability in healthcare. If your patient is on the path to “pursuit of healthiness”, don’t be the nail that flattens their tire.
Your gluteus maximus is innervated by the inferior gluteal nerve.
We get it. You’ve studied and have worked hard to become a specialist. Don’t fail your patients by not meeting them where they’re at, irrespective of their level of education. If your patient only understands 25% of what you explained to them, how much of that is converted to “buy-in”? I’m sure anyone who has worked in pediatric healthcare will agree that how you educate a child can be the polar opposite of teaching an adult, even when you have to inform both simultaneously. Of course, in that setting, it seems more obvious, but when you have a patient with a graduate level degree or a 10th grade education and/or may be at risk of losing their job because they can no longer perform it, it’s not so simple. Consider the person in front of you as a whole, not just an assigned diagnosis. In doing so, you may create a relationship that inspires them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully before the batteries in your flashlight loses power.
Your Favorite PT Fellow
Meet Chris, the creator and sole author of the Your Favorite PT blog