I forget frequently of how often it is not about me… and by extension, it is not about you either. As is human nature we take all interactions personally with a strange self-importance to their substance. But it is rarely about us.
We forget the 8 things that the patient did over the weekend that could have affected their outcome, and only lay importance on the TherEx we gave or the joint mob we did on Friday afternoon. We rarely consider the random activity the patient did, the medication effects, the visit from the favorite sister, the mother-in-law that just moved out of their home… no, it was us that had the most impact on them.
And the patient believes it too. Because we mention it a lot. “Oh, well, looks like the HEP is working!” etc. That’s how it goes. I don’t blame us. When that guy cuts us off in traffic we are quick to say that he is being a jerk to us. When more often the upcoming turn caught him by surprise and he had just enough room to squeeze in without having to do a u-turn ahead. Nothing personal, but we sure take it that way.
Same goes when people are nice or rude throughout the day. We assume they are being a jerk to us, when in fact, someone before was a jerk to them and now we are getting some of that runoff. (see Zig Ziglar’s Kick the Cat) Same goes for that cashier that flashes you a smile. Perhaps you are not that awesome, someone ahead of you in line said something nice, now you are the recipient of good vibes yourself. Voilà.
So the things around us sometimes are going to happen just as they are going to happen. Now we can affect things negatively. As they say: you can’t win the game in the first half, but you sure can lose it. Sure thing. And, of course, we can send a positive ripple across the pond too, no doubt!
Getting back to that patient: don’t forget about some very powerful truths in life that are treating your patient when you are away. Natural history, maturation, regression to the mean, biology, psychosocial factors, and on.
Now, the point is not “don’t do your best, nothing matters,” but it is just to realize that much is indeed out of our control. We can play a positive role, an evidence based role, a critical thinking role, a therapeutic role… and that is the best we can do by the patient. I suppose I am saying “be measured in your claims and be reflective.”
As skilled Physical Therapists we do make a difference, and it is an important difference, in people’s lives… and so do other ingredients. Let’s maximize our thoughtfulness and effort, while remaining humble but honest in our outcomes. Remind patient’s that we, and they, play a big role. Then let it roll.