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That Didn’t Go As Planned

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Negative emotions arise easily when life doesn’t go as planned.  What makes it even worse is when you’ve done your homework, thought through potential roadblocks, and prepared the team by sharing expectations.  Still, things can go south.  When this happens it evokes senses of failure, disappointment, and regret. 

There is another way to look at life when things don’t go as planned.  One that doesn’t trigger your stress response and keep you from experiencing all those negative emotions.  Do these four steps and start enjoying the spontaneous opportunities life brings to you.

1. Plan for them to not go as planned. 

What triggers your stress response is your limited capacity to navigate the situation(s) you’re going through.  When you have lots of tools in your toolbox your stress response isn’t triggered because you can rely on a tool to get you through.  In private practice, it’s important to dot your i’s and cross your t’s AND plan for it not to go well.  Follow these tips and add these tools:

Make sure you document all learning experiences and make immediate changes to address for future, similar situations.

Give yourself more time in the beginning to complete tasks.  Then, take every minute you have to go through the process asking yourself questions: Is this going correctly?  How can I make this work ideally?  What is my first step if things go south?  Who is my lifeline if I need help?  What role do my team members play to aide in this process?

Double-check and triple-check everything as you go. 

Have an alternative action to counterbalance each step you make.  Say to yourself, “If not this, then this,” until you’ve covered all your bases.

2. Over-communicate.

Too often as the owner, you keep all the steps to the plan in your head.  You think you’re the only one that understands the process because you went to the training and, well, you’re the owner.  This is false thinking.  You may know the steps on how to complete a procedure or task but that’s not the only piece to consider.  Partner with your team as they know the process of caring, WOWing, and serving the patient.  Bring your team into the fold, into your head, and make them part of the process.  Ask them what they see from their perspective.  Encourage them to visualize the whole process and what steps everyone needs to be aware of.  Your team is skilled at what they do just as you are skilled at what you do.  They see things differently than you, see things you don’t, and see how things can go south in different ways.  This is all GOOD news.  They are your compliment and can fill in the gaps to complete the patient experience.

3. Rehearse! 

You’ve practiced your skills at the training seminar.  You are picking up typodonts and practiced on models.  You have watched videos of the procedure, closing your eyes and visualizing you making every move.  You can verbalize every step in its exact order and completing it all to success. And then you never rehearse.  Practicing professional skills is easy and in your wheelhouse. 

What also needs to happen is to have a rehearsal BEFORE you go live.  Have a friend/family member play the role of customer, and during closing hours or quiet times rehearse what will happen step by step from the time that patron walks in the door to the time they leave.  Give yourself permission to mess up.  Starting from the top is encouraged because when you feel comfortable in the beginning the rest typically falls into place.  Do it over and over rehearsing different situations, switching up steps and outcomes (especially those outcomes where it doesn’t go as planned).  You and the team get to rehearse what you’ll say, how you’ll say it, what will need to be resolved, how to talk to the patient when things don’t go as planned.

4. Choose wisely. 

Science proves that what we tell ourselves we believe.  The amazing thing about that is we get to choose what we tell ourselves.  Stop reading just for a moment and really take that in.  That statement right there is truly the root of all stress and the answer to all stress management.  When things don’t go as planned, be aware of what you tell yourself. 

Don’t say~

  • That was terrible.  I’ll never do that again.
  • I let that patient down.  I’m not ready for this.
  • It’s all my fault and now the patient had a terrible experience.
  • Why did I even try that?  I should know better.
  • Those kinds of things is for skilled docs.  Not me.

DO say~

  • That was a learning experience.  When I do that again I will definitely do it differently.
  • I’m going to call that patient and let them know this is not an indication of how we do things.  We will be ready for the next time.
  • That patient didn’t receive the kind of experience I want my patients to have.  What can I do so this doesn’t happen with the next patient?
  • There are always learning moments during growth and this is one of them.  Now I know better so I will do better.
  • My skill level in this area isn’t what I’d like it to be so I’m going to do X, Y, Z to change that.

If life just went as planned it would be pretty boring.  Missteps, mishaps, mistakes, and misbehaviors are what propels us to learn, grow, change, adapt, and challenge our current way of being.  When things don’t go as planned they are a gift and an opportunity.  Tell yourself that.

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