Professionalism vs. Personality
So a while back, I was working with a patient who just had a total knee replacement. She was mobilizing well, but kept looking down at her feet while she walked. So I stood next to her and looked down at the ground where she was looking and said, "I have a question for you." She said, "What's that?" I said, "Is there something interesting down there you keep looking at?" She picked up her head, looked directly at me and said, "F*** you!" We both started laughing. We had a pretty good rapport, but thankfully there wasn't anyone else around to hear!
Needless to say, it got me wondering, at what point do we sacrifice some professionalism and let our personality shine through. I am a pretty lighthearted person. I like to joke and can be extremely sarcastic. I also like to think I'm pretty good at reading people, so I know what I can and can't get away with when talking to patients or family members. Personally, I feel like all this "professionalism" stuff can impede our ability to form relationships with our patients. I think providing good customer service is a good and necessary part of any practice but not at the cost of eradicating my personality.
And honestly I think that patients appreciate my being honest with them. I have a bit of a reputation for telling it how it is and I have found that patients and families both really tend to respond well to it. The patients who are doing well find it amusing, and the patients who aren't doing so well find it motivating. Our rehab supervisor, as well as some of the nursing supervisors who are on the floor, are all about the good customer service and maintaining a professional persona at all times. I'm not sure that works all the time though.
Certainly in tough situations it's necessary, but in the day-to-day dealings with patients, I have found that being real and being myself can really go a lot farther than putting on a fake smile and being overly (and dare I say "awkwardly") polite. I think it's important for patients and families to see that yes we are healthcare professionals who are here to provide a service to you, but we're also human beings. We have feelings and emotions and they help express who we really are.
What do you think? Where is the line between professional behavior and our true personalities drawn? Have you ever had an instance where your personality conflicted with the professional expectations of coworkers or supervisors?