Everywhere you go has its own culture. Merriam-Webster defines culture as: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization. In my clinic, I have worked hard to establish a culture of compassionate care, where we consider the humanity of everyone that comes in, and we work hard for each patient. We serve our patients in whatever ways we can, and we try to go above and beyond the job and what is expected of us.
Our clinic culture is not established primarily by me, the physician. But more so by my staff, who I value and treasure. They are on the front-lines, seeing patients before I do, fielding calls and queries, and doing most of the behind-the-scenes (often grunt) work to care for our patients. It warms my heart when I hear them take a few extra moments to ask a patient about their family member, make a phone call to check on a patient that missed their appointment, set aside samples for a patient that can’t afford a needed medication, or sit on the phone for extended periods of time to arrange a sub-specialist appointment for one of our patients.
If we recommend something for a patient, an over-the-counter treatment, a lab or radiology test, a visit with a primary care doctor, we make sure they have the tools they need to get that done before they leave our office. Most of the time, we do the scheduling for them, so that things don’t get left undone. We care about our patients, and we wouldn’t recommend something that we didn’t think was important, so we follow through. Similarly, any instructions I give patients, I write down for them and make sure they have a large-font print-out to take home with them. I also spend a lot of time on verbal instructions, because I truly believe in patient education.
All of these efforts do take a lot of time. For that reason, I strive for efficiency in other areas, to save time for what matters most – the human connection. For everything I write, I use shortcuts, like dot phrases in Epic EMR or pre-printed sheets that I have created where I can circle what is relevant to each patient. For verbal instructions, my staff will often help by repeating or reinforcing what I have explained. Additionally, one of the main reasons I’ve created the my website is to give patients another place to hear things explained, in case they forget after the appointment.
I believe that with time, effort, and the right group of people, every clinic can transform their culture to one that puts patients first, offers compassionate care, treats the whole person, and emphasizes patient education.