A friend of mine recently posted the following story on her Facebook page:
“Finally on a plane, and should be on the way to New York soon. A flight attendant just explained what happened: first plane was delayed, so they had to wait for another plane. At that point, most of the crew had timed out, so they had to get a new crew. The pilot on that crew couldn’t locate his girlfriend and was freaking out, so they had to replace him. The plane couldn’t go to the original gate because it was broken, so they had to sit on the taxiway and wait for a new one.
Phew! Hope all the bad mojo is over with for this flight. The flight attendant is now singing to us. We’re off…maybe!”

How often has something similar happened to you in your practice? Staff members didn’t show up? Staff members or maybe you had to deal with personal issues during work hours? Network was down? EMR software not loading? Patients complaining about delays because the mishaps in your practice is affecting their lives, schedules and families?

What is the right and most effective way to handle this?

1. Accept that these types of events are a part of work and you have to make the best out of it.
Even though we wish and hope that every day will go smoothly, people will show up in time, technology works smoothly, patients will be friendly and understanding, personal issues won’t creep up in our work life – this is not reality. Life and work come with up’s and down’s and all you can do is roll with them, accept that they happen and make the best out of it. It is when we get upset about them we are creating suffering.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Just like you (and I) hate sitting in an idle airplane for an entire hour not knowing whether we will take off or not, patients feel the same way when they are sitting in your waiting room not knowing whether or when they will be seen by you today. Just like the flight attendant explained to the passengers why they were delayed, you want to have one of your staff members, an administrator or maybe even you walk into the waiting room, explain the delay, and tell them what is done to correct the situation. At the same time you want to give your patients the option to reschedule if they don’t have the time to wait. But ensure you communicate as soon as possible to your staff as well as your patients the breakdown and what is done about it. They will appreciate your honesty and they will have less time to create their own story in their head (believe me, that story in their head is never to your advantage). And remember, not communicating is also a form of communication.

3. Keep it light and positive
I know how it feels when everything wants to go wrong a day and all you want to do is run away, punch someone, or just cry. But that will only make things worse and one of the best ways to handle the situation is to keep it as light as possible. Just like the flight attendant started singing, you want to keep your mood upbeat and positive. Put the situation in perspective; have a 2-minute pep talk with your staff, count your blessings, stay in the present or ask yourself how you would want to be lead as a patient or staff member by someone who is in your position. Do whatever it takes to handle the situation in a positive way. I could bet that they will ease up on their stress and they will cooperate to make things better.

As a saying goes, “It’s not how you start that’s important, but how you finish!”