How many times have you been working with a patient and your mind wanders in the middle of the conversation? Or how many times has the patient taken the conversation on a tangent? I imagine this happens daily and perhaps several times each day. Keeping our mind and the conversation on track takes focus and intention.
I first heard this phrase “stay in it” during a fitness class I attend. The instructor is dynamic (and getting her master’s in public health – I knew I liked her) and often uses this phrase at a time in our fitness routine when most of us want to quit, or at least lower the intensity of the movement. For me, it is when we are doing burpees, that really fun exercise of jumping to the floor, doing a push up, coming back up with an added jump and doing it all over again for a minute or longer. Many of you know what I am talking about. And for those who have forgotten what a burpee is, yes, it is just about as fun as it sounds. The instructor uses this positive approach that brings our mind back to what we are doing and assists us in refocusing on our activity. “Stay in it.”
I believe this phrase applies so well in our work with patients, clients, families, colleagues, and those we serve. So often our mind wanders.
To assist in keeping our mind focused, we want to first be aware that we are not listening to others but rather listening to what is going on in our head. We want to get out of our head and back to focusing on what is going on around us. Stay in it. Stay in the conversation.
Maybe we are in the conversation however our patient is off target. To assist in getting the patient to refocus on the topic at hand we may need to:
- Pull together the conversation using a summary statement. Think of a bouquet of flowers and pulling together all the key items – mostly focusing on change talk (need, ability, reasons and desire to make a change). Affirm strengths and movement forward.
- After our summary statement we can ask an engaging question that can move the conversation forward:
“What is your next step?”
“What is one small step you are able/willing to make today?”
“What are your thoughts?”
“What did you hear that is important to you?”
- Gently interrupt and let the patient know there is only a few minutes left in the conversation and you really want to make sure that we cover what is most important to her related to something she can do to stay healthy.
The next time you are aware that your mind is wandering, gently remind yourself to “stay in it”. Refocus back to the conversation, action and item at hand. Refocus back and “stay in it”. Our time spent will be more effective, efficient and less stressful for all.