Trying hard is something that comes naturally to me. I may not have been the fastest player on the football field, but I was the one that hustled the most.
Practicing medicine has often been about trying hard, as well: long hours; fascinating research; late-night visits to post-surgery babies on the way home from dinner with my family.
But in recent years, as medicine has become increasingly regulated, I notice a trend toward the legislation of hard work. Patient satisfaction went from a feeling to a metric. Collaboration about serving our patients went from a chat in a hospital hallway to a Powerpoint with "tips" on shaking hands and what to say in the exam room.
Combine this kind of profit-seeking approach with healthcare providers that work hard and care harder… and you've got a recipe for burnout and frustration. Providers suffer, medicine stagnates, and patient satisfaction ends up lost in the shuffle.
So I've started doing the only thing I can in this environment: do the right thing in the moment. I've started thinking of it as Zen and the Art of Patient Satisfaction, in fact. Forget the rules. Forget whether this is your first patient or your fiftieth. Forget whether you need to be more productive or have a higher patient satisfaction rating or whether you've been sued before.
Stop trying so hard.
As Eugen Herrigel says in the famous book Zen and the Art of Archery, "The man, the art, the work -- it is all one.” That moment when patient, provider, and collaborators are all in the moment and truly being responsive to each other: that is Zen and the Art of Patient Satisfaction. And the satisfaction belongs to every single person involved in the care -- as long as they're present.