Lie #8: If I care enough patients will more likely follow my recommendations.
Most chiropractors have been repeatedly reminded, "Patients don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."
So they care. Boy do they ever!
This prompts many chiropractors to helicopter over patients, constantly wetting a finger to test the new patient winds. "Are they still on board?" "Are they following all my recommendations?" "Do they like me?" "Are they likely to return for future visits?" "Are their symptoms resolving fast enough to please them?"
This is an exhausting, unsustainable ground of being that is characteristic of professional caregivers who have poor boundaries. In other words, they care about the patient's health more than the patient!
That doesn't necessarily mean you should care less. But it might. However, the objective here is to stop "parenting" patients and discontinue the inclination to take responsibility for the decisions and daily choices that each patient makes.
If a 5-year old throws a full-blown temper tantrum at the supermarket because mom won't buy candy at the checkout counter, then yes, the child's behavior may reflect poorly on the parenting skills of the adult.
But what a patient does with your most clear-cut, lucid explanations and recommendations for care is NOT a reflection of you, your communication skills, your value as a human being or anything else. It's merely a choice that reflects that patient's values, resources and beliefs. To which we are each entitled—and established long before showing up in your practice.
For some chiropractors this has caused their report of findings to degenerate into a sales presentation. Many practice management groups have fueled this inclination and have been far too happy to supply manipulative techniques to press for annual care plans and other "my-way-or-the-highway" tactics. Many were justified as being in the best interests of patients too stupid to know what's right. Thus objectifying each patient and marginalizing their free will agency.
This dogmatic positioning has served to tarnish the image of chiropractic, even spawning the rise of The Joint and other low cost providers. They have been able to appeal to thousands of patients who didn't give up on chiropractic—but gave up on their dogmatic chiropractor.
You must care. After all you're a professional caregiver. But do so by honoring the choices of each patient, even if they are not the choices you would make. Avoid projecting your values onto them. Avoid the use of judgment, guilt or shame.
Truth: Every professional caregiver has a finite ability to care. Once it is exhausted by the unsustainable practice of caring too much, it produces anger, then resentment and then the emotional detachment of burnout. The solution? Establish clear boundaries, explaining to each patient your job and their job. Then, honor their choices—even if they aren't the ones you would make.
Bill Esteb has been a chiropractic patient and advocate since 1981. He is the creative director of Patient Media and the co-founder of Perfect Patients. He’s been a regular speaker at Parker Seminars and other chiropractic gatherings since 1985. He is the author of 12 books that explore the doctor/patient relationship from a patient’s point of view. His chiropractic blog, in-office consultations, patient focus groups and consulting calls have helped hundreds of chiropractors around the world. His Monday Morning Motivation is emailed to over 10,000 subscribers each week.