Mrs. Jones stormed out of your office today because she waited too long to be seen! Suzie called in sick leaving you short-handed! You overhear an argument escalating at the front desk about an overdue bill! Mr. Johnson returned his night splint and wants his money back because he claims it did not help him! What next?
This was definitely not the kind of day you expected when getting out of bed this morning. You planned to treat patients and improve lives, not dowse fires all day. It is no surprise to have occasional problems throughout the day. That’s Murphy’s Law. However, when 80% of your day is spent putting out office fires, leaving only 20% to focus on productivity, you need to do something – quickly – before those flames burn out of control.
The most common approach is to address that crisis immediately and move on. If you fit that description, you probably know that dealing with the calamity du jour at the moment it happens does little to solve the underlying problem and is the most disruptive. I often ask, “why is it easier to react, (i.e. ‘stop, drop and roll’) when managing a problem, than it is to actually fix it?” There is no denying the “stop, drop and roll” method works in a real life emergency fire situation – thankfully I have no personal experience. However, stopping production, dropping whatever you’re doing and then just rolling with each disaster as it happens generally results in unwanted and repeated interruptions. This is a reactive approach and changes nothing.
Let’s say a patient presents with a dirty, angry, open, oozing wound. The immediate approach to stop the bleeding might be to apply a bandage. Yet you know that simple first aid alone is not a good solution. It is fairly certain this patient will return with a worse condition because the underlying problem (the infection) was not addressed. A more proactive approach would involve managing the infection; specifically, cleaning and dressing the wound and taking necessary measures to prevent further contamination. Similarly, burning problems at work are also not eliminated by quick, easy fixes and are rarely a “one and done” solution. It’s pretty certain that those smoldering ashes will only re-ignite and create a worse situation next time around. Do you really want to deal with the same problems over and over again? Clearly, that is a waste of valuable doctor time. In fact, if one does not work to prevent these hypothetical fires; they are practically guilty of arson.
Don’t fight fire with fire. Instead, consider these three strategies towards a more proactive fire-fighting approach.