In this episode, I’ll discuss dealing with and preventing negative interactions with other professionals.
We’ve all been yelled at or had a professional interaction go sour at some point in our career. Perhaps it was when trying to deliver a recommendation to a physician, ask a question of a nurse, or communicate with another pharmacist.
Such interactions are few and far between, but it is helpful to have a way to deal with them when they do occur.
How you choose to deal with a negative interaction affects more than just your mood – it can have an impact on the care you provide to your patients. If you get flustered or dwell on a negative interaction, you might make an error or a decision that you regret later.
How I deal with negative interactions has been heavily influenced by “Pharmacy Chris.” Before graduating pharmacy school, I worked as an intern in a community pharmacy, and Chris was the pharmacy manager. One thing I noticed about Chris was that his mood was unflappable. His cool demeanor never changed, whether he was being yelled at by an irate patient, had 2 hours of scripts in front of him, learned the store was being audited, couldn’t get past the “gatekeeper” at a physician office, or was on hold forever with an insurance company. Stress of any kind just rolled off him – like water off a duck’s back. Because of this Chris never made a rash decision or an unforced error that might ordinarily come from losing his patience.
As my career progressed, I purposely tried to emulate Pharmacy Chris’ reaction to stressful situations. I’ve had a handful of interactions that didn’t go how I wanted them to with physicians. Perhaps you’ve had something similar happen. It is easy to let the frustration from such an incident fester and affect your performance for the rest of the day or even longer. It is even easier to let such an incident color your interactions with that physician in the future. Every time this happened to me, I’d let it roll off my back and keep my mood steady throughout the day.
Letting negative interactions roll off you like water off a duck’s back doesn’t mean you have to be stoic and emotionless. It also doesn’t mean you forget about mistakes or near misses without adequate self-reflection. But it does mean you shouldn’t let others choose your emotion for you.
Of course, far better than dealing with negative interactions is preventing them from happening in the first place. Here are my best two tips on how to prevent having a negative interaction:
1. Avoid judgmental language
You don’t need to tiptoe around or sugar-coat things, but avoiding judgmental language goes a long way to keeping your interactions positive. Judgmental words to watch out for are: “Wrong,” “Obviously,” or “Claimed.” Instead, I liberally sprinkle non-judgmental words like “Consider” in my language.
2. When approaching a physician with a recommendation, know whether they have “seen the patient” or not
The easiest way to get a physician’s defenses up is to make them think you are blaming them for someone else’s mistake. In a hospital, a physician will assume responsibility for a patient’s care before they completely evaluate a patient’s current treatment plan. Such an evaluation is often referred to as “seeing the patient.” If the physician responsible for a patient’s care has not “seen the patient yet” for the day, and you approach them with a recommendation for a patient, it’s just human nature for them to say “But I haven’t seen that patient yet!” To keep these interactions positive, I make an attempt to find out if the physician has “seen the patient yet” before providing a recommendation. Usually if there is no progress note, the patient has not been seen. If that is the case, I preface my recommendation with “I know you haven’t see the patient yet…”
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If you like this post, check out my book – A Pharmacist’s Guide to Inpatient Medical Emergencies: How to respond to code blue, rapid response calls, and other medical emergencies.