How Physicians Can Be Better Role Models

September 7, 2016
Sue Jacques

Patients look to their physicians to lead by example. If your harried day leaves something to desire, here are five remedies.

Even if it's subliminal, patients, staff, and community members expect physicians to exemplify professional conduct and make smart lifestyle choices. Despite your best intentions, however, the stress of establishing and running your medical practice can make it challenging to consistently demonstrate model behavior.

Activities like eating on the run, habitual multi-tasking, falling behind on correspondence, and being unfit can detract from your credibility. How can you be certain you're modeling great choices? Here are five ways to represent yourself in the best light possible.

1. Honor the fact that you have influence.

Whether you like it or not, you're being watched. Accepting the reality that your attitude and actions are constantly being scrutinized empowers you to develop better habits. When you understand how much impact your choices have on others you're more likely to up the ante with your conduct. Simple things, like pacing yourself, adopting an optimistic outlook, or sharing gratitude and compliments more generously will directly affect how others perceive you.

2. Reflect on your most influential role models.

Most of us have had at least a couple of mentors throughout our lives whose examples we've admired. Take a few moments to think about the people who've had the most influence on you. How did they inspire you? What qualities do you admire about them? Use their conduct, attitude, and principles as a guideline to highlight the virtues you'd like to adopt. Following someone else's lead can make it easier to implement the new routines and patterns you'd like to establish.

3. Be strategic.

Good planning is the key to developing long-term changes. From making nutritious food choices to scheduling your time more efficiently, you will stand a better chance of success by becoming more organized. Making too many alterations at once can be overwhelming, though. So start small with bite-sized changes, such as bringing a healthy lunch to work, routinely going for a short walk during the day, or transferring some of your more tedious administrative tasks to an assistant or colleague.

4. Don't be afraid to empathize.

No one is infallible, including you. If you struggle with the same challenge your patient is presenting - like a lack of adequate physical exercise because of a busy schedule, for example - it's okay to let them know that. Naturally, it's even more helpful if you've overcome similar roadblocks, because then you can explain how you did it, consequently ensuring you're leading by example. Discussing the shortcomings you share with a patient can strengthen your bond and inspire positive lifestyle changes for both of you.

5. Keep your word.

Character and integrity are intertwined. People look up to you, which is why it's imperative that you do what you say you'll do, when you say you'll do it, and always to the best of your ability. You will gain respect from patients, colleagues, and members of the public by being reliable. Just remember, this quality needs to be demonstrated by everyone who represents your practice, because having a unified and consistently positive team leaves others feeling at ease, knowing they can trust you to do a good job.

Being a good role model is like climbing a ladder. Every rung offers a different perspective, a better view, and a greater opportunity to share your insights more widely. And best of all, you can always pause at the top and invite others to join you.

Sue Jacquesis a professionalism expert who specializes in medical and corporate civility. A veteran forensic medical investigator, Jacques is a keynote speaker, author, and consultant who helps people and practices prosper through professionalism. www.TheCivilityCEO.com