From minding your manners to eating your veggies, here's how a mother's advice can help you be a better physician.
Mother’s Day is on May 11 this year. In thinking about the holiday, I pondered the things our mothers were always telling us. Many apply to my medical office:
1: Mind your manners!
Saying please and thank you are not only social expectations. A well-placed "thank you" can do wonders for employee morale. Too often, we are very quick to pick up on mistakes and criticize others when things go wrong. Expressing gratitude to another person (especially a staff member) is powerful and motivates that staff member to keep doing a good job.
Also in this category is minding your language while in the office. Those doors and walls can be thin. Don’t say anything out loud that you wouldn’t want any patients to hear. And certainly keep the adult jokes and blue language in check until after hours when patients are not around!
2: Clean up your room!
The saying goes that you never get a second change to make a first impression. Having dated dÃ©cor or older furniture in your office is acceptable for most patients; having a dirty office is not. If your current cleaning crew is not doing a good job, speak with them; they might improve the job they do. However, often they will only do the bare minimum, especially if the cleaning is part of the rent. Alternatively, you can hire an extra cleaning company to come in once or twice a month to do the cleaning of windows, window blinds, polish floors, and shampoo carpet. We have had much trouble with cleaning over the years. We have negotiated all our office leases to not include cleaning and we have hired our own crew.
3: Eat your vegetables!
Patients certainly expect us to remind them about healthy habits. But in order to have credibility with many patients, we should follow our own advice: have a good diet, exercise, quit smoking, and drink moderately. Since attitude starts at the top, if we live by our own words, the staff will follow suit. And if you haven’t had a recent physical exam or the recommended screenings for your age group, get them done as soon as you can.
4: Wash your hands!
Even if you just visited the hand washing sink before entering an exam room, patients like to see you sanitize or wash your hands. Patients are very well informed about communicable disease, especially in the healthcare setting. Don’t forget about your stethoscope too! If they don’t see you do this, they may assume that you haven’t. To protect yourself, remember to wash after touching a patient.
For those with EHRs (and most of us have them), wipe down your laptops and tablets on a regular basis. There have been numerous studies indicating just how dirty our keyboards are.
5: You’re not going to wear that in public, are you?
Patients come to see me for the abilities I have in medicine, not for my clothing style. However, they do expect professional appearance. Some specialties wear the white coats, but in pediatrics we don’t (children start to correlate the white coat with bad experiences). As with the office appearance, your clothing doesn’t have to be the latest style but should be clean and neat. And remember to launder that white coat on a very frequent basis.
So, on this Mother’s Day, when you think about your mom, just remember all the lessons she taught you and apply them to your medical office. Thanks, Mom!