Meeting new people makes me nervous. I have a big mouth and a strong personality, both of which can result in negative first impressions. Unfortunately for me my personal foibles carry over into my professional life. I am blessed to be liked by the majority of my patients but I at times struggle to make positive first impressions. There is so much that can go wrong the first time someone comes to the office.
I worry about wait times in the waiting room and in the office, about looking at the computer screen too long as I enter all of the patient’s health information, about addressing each and every concern, and about listening well and communicating clearly. I even worry about my appearance and grooming.
Each new patient interaction reminds me of how people must feel when they go on a blind date. You want to like the other person but find yourself analyzing everything about them while at the same time hoping not to make a fool of yourself. It is an incredibly stressful situation for a doctor who battles anxiety.
My anxiety has been in full force for the last few weeks. A local doctor in the community retired and my medical group transferred 200 patients into my practice. I find myself going on several medical “blind dates” each day. Most of the interactions have gone well (I think, no negative Yelp reviews- yet!) but there have been challenges. The retired physician seems to not have been completely up to date on all of his practices. Recommending changes in medications and treatment strategies to someone you have just met can be extremely delicate. I find myself exhausted at the end of each day.
I am certain it has not been easy for the patients either. It is not easy to put your health in the hands of a stranger. It is even more difficult when someone else picked the stranger on your behalf, when through no fault of your own you lost a physician you trusted. Some patients were transferred in the middle of care for serious problems and wondered if treatments would be delayed and if they would lose their specialists. These patients were understandably fearful.
In spite of the challenges and anxious moments these last few weeks have brought with them a valuable life lesson. I have been repeatedly reminded of the importance of communication, patience, grace and understanding. I have seen how taking a little more time and explaining a little more carefully can ease someone’s fears. I need to apply this in all of my social interactions. Kindness matters.