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One Mouth and Two Ears

Community pharmacists are similar to the Energizer bunny, always in go mode. Even after a global pandemic left tested (dare I say it in the oft tense?) our resolve, we are undoubtedly, “still going.”

There’s benefits to the flow state, the “go mode,” laser focus, whatever you want to call it. But occasionally, I think we miss some key opportunities to have an impact with our patients.

Have you ever been stuck in a conversation that you NEED to get out of, maybe so you can lock back into your flow state? You’ve tapped into your critical thinking reserve to devise the cleanest exit strategy possible, and you pull it off flawlessly. You’re back to work and the opposite party has no clue that you paid close to zero attention to what they were trying to tell you. After all how could you? Your brain was working a mile a minute to figure out your next steps of dialogue that would get you back to work.

Obviously, this is a rhetorical question. We’ve ALL been there. Sometimes, I’ll admit, having an exit strategy for a situation like this is necessary depending upon a plethora of different external factors that may be in play at a given time. However, we may be missing something here.

Sometimes, all we really want is to be heard. Right? Even when you think it’s a tangible item, or maybe a specific action you want to see out if somebody. The thing that makes you feel the best, is the feeling that the other person has actually received your message as you intended it. I think there is a lot to be gained in the way of building momentum in making recommendations to our patients, and better yet getting them to stick, when we go the extra mile to hear their side of the story. To accomplish this, they have to know we hear them.

A lot of times, a simple restatement of what the other person is telling you goes a long way. It may help to phase this as, “so what I’m hearing is _____.” Asking permission to share your $0.02 can go a long way too. For example, “would it be okay if I shared a suggestion or two with you?” If you want you can make it more personal, “can I tell you what I would do in this situation?” Try putting it altogether and make the transition from active listening, to giving your recommendation(s). For example, maybe your conversations sounds like this, “I’m hearing you’re feeling _____ because of _____. Would it be okay if I suggested a solution?”

A preceptor of mine on a med management service once told me that before going into a patient’s room to meet with them, it is important to have one goal in mind that you want to accomplish, one goal of the patient’s own that you can address, and room to uncover and discuss a potential “hidden” goal. I don’t always have 30 minutes to spend individual patients on a daily basis, but I try to always remember this when having conversations, and I try to use active listening to accomplish it.

For example, this past week I had the pleasure of meeting a woman with uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes, A1c >10%, only on insulin. She was interested in natural medicines and entirely disinterested in pharmacotherapy. She had expressed that often when she visits the doctor’s office she feels like they have an agenda to push. I told her, “it sounds like you want to feel heard when you encounter a healthcare worker, I can do that for you today. Tell me about the supplements you are interested in, then may I give you my recommendation?” She obliged, and we ended up taking about how metformin is one of the most effective natural medicines known to man, derived from the French lilac. End result, patient left in a better mood and agreed to discuss metformin again with her doctor.

So, in short, “go mode” is great, but we’re all people after all. Sometimes we all we need is each other’s attention.

Written on behalf of CPESN West Virginia by FtP coach, Evan Turco, PharmD

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