Rejuvenate your practice

May 1, 2011

What if you held the keys to rejuvenating your practice?

Imagine that tomorrow morning you wake up to find that a miracle has occurred. When you get out of bed, there is lightness in your step and joy in your heart. You look forward to going to work, and when you arrive, you find an environment full of energy and passion. Everyone in the practice has a shared sense of mission and is having fun carrying it out. People are encouraging each other and working to the top of their abilities. You are providing world-class service.

At the end of the day, you are tired, but it is a good tired, the kind that comes from knowing that what you do makes a difference rather than the exhaustion and weariness that seem more common these days. Now, ask yourself, "What if being part of such an environment was not only possible, but well within my power to help bring about?"

As you read these words, you might conclude that you're still asleep. "You obviously don't know my situation," you might be thinking. "Fun left my work ages ago, and along with it, passion and energy and a sense that what I do really matters. Too often it just feels like I'm on a gerbil wheel, drowning in bureaucracy."

Time to go FISH!ing

Over the next 10 years, they proceeded to do that. Their approach, made famous through books, movies, and workshops, became known as the FISH! philosophy, and because of it they've sold a lot of fish. (More information about the FISH! philosophy is available at http://www.charthouse.com/ and http://www.pikeplacefish.com/.)

The FISH! philosophy includes 4 principles: play, make their day, be there, and choose your attitude. Let's examine these in more detail.

Play: When was the last time you could say, "Today I had fun at work"? Sure, the work of doctoring has a serious side, but it also has many light moments. Recently, we had our physicians do the "YMCA" at a staff gathering. Moments like these create energy, and people will be talking about them years from now.

Make their day: We hear a lot about being "patient-centered" these days, but what does the "extra mile" for patient service look like? Research has shown that patients are, on average, interrupted approximately 17 seconds after they start talking. The same research shows that if the average patient were permitted to speak uninterrupted, the longest they would speak would be about 1.5 minutes. Similarly, consistently sending the messages "We are here to help you" and "We are grateful that you trust us to provide your health care" will create devoted patients who will spread the word to many others.

Be there: When your body is fully at work, where is your mind? With so many distractions, it's easy to lose focus from the person in front of you. Small rituals such as pausing before entering an exam room and reminders such as placing meaningful symbols around the office can keep our minds and bodies aligned and present. Being present with the staff and colleagues is just as important as being present with patients.

Choose your attitude: Do you find yourself often falling into negative thought patterns at work, playing the "blame game" when things don't go as you would like? Often the simple acknowledgement that our attitudes are a choice and that we should "choose wisely" is the key not only to work success but to success in all aspects of life. This is so important to practice rejuvenation that it is addressed separately later.

Our fishmonger friends in Seattle contend that when these 4 elements are combined and lived daily, you and those around you not only will experience deeper meaning and more energy in your work but also will be more effective in what you do. We call this the "new CPR" (continuous process improvement).