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Journey of a DPT Student

Difficult Personalities

Published September 30, 2013 5:21 PM by Lauren Rosso

In general, I consider myself a patient person. And I truly do love to make connections with my patients, no matter how difficult some of them may be. I actually pride myself on it. But sometimes, no matter how hard I try, patience eludes me. Take, for example, a new patient who I was evaluating this Sunday. It was my seventh day of work in a row, preceded by a Saturday when no one seemed to want to willingly participate in therapy. So when 11 a.m. came around and my patient was less than cooperative, I found myself taking a few walks around the corner and some deep breaths.

I haven't been challenged like this for a while now. For the most part, my patients have been happy to work with me despite my "student" status. And I've had a very kind and polite caseload lately. So today, when I was confronted by a patient who questioned and confronted everything I presented to him, I was caught a little bit off-guard. I realized that I haven't quite refined my communication skills with patients who are skeptical of my ability to provide the highest standard of care (and also with those people who, no matter who you are or what you say, are a pain). I found my confidence wavering alongside my patience, which surely didn't help my case.

In the end, I realized that in situations like this I need to earn the person's trust. And if I was reading the situation correctly, I also need to make him feel like he has some sort of control. (My CI helped me with that one). Get him to buy into what we're doing and trust that for the most part, I know what I'm doing. I haven't quite figured out how to boost my patience at the end of a seven-day work week, so if anyone knows how to conquer that one, be sure to let me know.

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As a long time PT patient I can sympathize with the patient you are talking about. Please don't be  offended. sometimes we are frustrated and tired.

AMY, PT - patient, Lee Memorial October 7, 2013 10:18 AM
ft myerss FL

Hi Lauren! After being "on" for so many days, we understandably have an  energy management problem. Taking a deep breath indeed gives us perspective. I remember relinquishing treatment of a handful of patients during my career to another therapist if my style just wasn't effective with them. We have to also realize it probably isn't "you" but rather the patient who has the issues. We may be PT's and OT's, but we also might as well have majored in sales and marketing!  If we click with every patient, we would be perfect. Impossible! So, "Fail Forward" and remember that practice doesn't make perfect, but perfect practice makes permanent. This patient gave you a gift, even though the wrapping wasn't very pretty! Just sharing on this blog tells me you are a wonderful OT because you have passion and truly care. A+ from this "mature" P.T. :)

Marian, physical therapy - retired October 7, 2013 9:06 AM

I totally agree with Denise's comment above.  Thinking you are going to get along with everyone and everyone is going to like you is a pretty lofty goal.  Also, sounds like you might have been experiencing a little burnout as well from working 7 straight.  I work 8 straight (actually tomorrow is my 8th day in a row) about once a month, by day 7 I feel pretty burnt out.  Day 8 I often don't remember much of.  I once worked 13 straight and although my paycheck was padded with some nice overtime pay, the mental burnout was awful.  I was not only physically wiped out, but my mind just couldn't handle the daily grind of dealing with patients -- and that's something that I think is often lost on some therapists, we need to protect our minds as well as our bodies!  

Mike September 30, 2013 11:34 PM

And yet, some patients do not want to work with us or anyone for that matter - they feel out of their element, overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, fearful, etc. I realize I can not gain trust with every patient, some won't trust. I can't get all patients to join in with the treatment for their good - some don't want to do anything. And so, I have to let them be, even after trying, being incredibly patient, kind, pleasant, whatever. I know it is their loss to reject the caregivers who are offering compassionate care. (and this after 30+ years of practice) We can't 'win' them all.

denise September 30, 2013 7:32 PM

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