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Six Ways Physicians can Improve their Patience


A lot of things hold your attention, but when it comes to patient care, patience is a virtue. Here are ways to improve that virtue.

One thing I've learned about life is that it never slows down. Most leaders - whether in the hospital, the practice, or the boardroom - crave the energy that comes from being busy.

I love working in a fast-paced environment. It's exciting to make decisions, move pieces, and make improvements. But there is definitely a drawback to working at a breakneck pace. When things - or more often, people - slow down, it's easy to be impatient.

Most patients will never see what happens behind the scenes at your practice - juggling appointments, dealing with difficult personalities, putting out personnel fires, troubleshooting technology, managing mounds of paperwork. When you are with a patient though, your focus needs to be singular, no matter how impatient you may be feeling or how many other things are fighting for your attention.  

If you are struggling with a lack of patience at work, at home, or while you're waiting in line to renew your driver's license, here are a few tips that can help.

Understand what causes you to lose patience. It's easier to control an emotion or impulse once you're aware of it. If you're serious about working on your patience problem, start by identifying what things, or which people, are causing you to lose your cool. When you feel impatience creeping in, take a moment to breathe and think about how you can tackle the situation.

Focus on active listening. When you're busy, it's easy to lose patience with people who are slow to get to the point. Focusing on active listening - concentrating on what's being said and actively responding - allows you to be more present and put other concerns on the backburner until you have time to address them. 

Take time to be thankful. There's a strong link between gratitude and patience. A report issued in Psychological Science found that those who express gratitude are better able to wait for gratification. Fortunately, upping your gratitude levels is incredibly easy. Writing thank you notes or keeping a daily gratitude journal are good ways to start.

Find ways to get rid of that pent up frustration. If you're an impatient person, the time spent waiting - whether in the office, on the road, or at your child's school performance - turns into stress. So make sure that you have a healthy way to get rid of it. For me, that means setting aside time every day to get to the gym, even if it means canceling something else to make it happen.

Don't forget about your inner self. Relieving your physical stress is important, but so is taking care of your mind. Whether it's meditation, prayer, or mindfulness, taking time to slow down your brain and focus your thoughts helps bring a level of calmness to counterbalance the urge to always be on the go.

Remember that impatience rarely makes something go faster. I realize that my lack of patience is often used as a not-so-subtle way of trying to get others to hurry up. But it usually has the opposite effect. Instead of speeding up the process, it creates stress that results in a less productive and slower experience for everyone.

The bad news about becoming more patient is that it's hard. For me, it's a daily challenge and most days I feel like I'm failing. The good news is that it's worth it. Increasing patience has big benefits like better mental health and stronger relationships with friends, family, and coworkers. It just takes time. And patience.

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