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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?”
  3. 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.

If you know of others, perhaps your leadership team or a friend, who would be interested in learning more or receiving this and other blog posts, please feel free to forward to those individuals.

If you are interested in bringing me to your organization for a refresh training or coming to a public training, I’d love to hear from you. Send me a comment or email at beckylang@icloud.com.

Tranform Conversations. Transform Lives.
Dr. Becky Lang

“Dr. Lang’s training provided me with a better understanding of the motivational interviewing process. The skills I learned from her training have helped me feel more engaged and thoughtful when listening and talking with those around me. Dr. Lang is energetic, knowledgeable, passionate and provides a great learning environment.”

Nancy AdrianseBSDH, Oral Health Manager, Iowa Primary Care Association

“The training I received in Becky’s motivational interviewing class was invaluable. It laid a wonderful foundation for me to effectively empower my patients to develop and implement positive changes for their health. Becky created such a nurturing, nonthreatening environment that allowed me to freely learn and practice. This is certainly a class I can recommend to anyone wanting to learn to assist others with behavior changes.”

Robin GeorgeRN, Motivational Interviewing training participant

“At the YMCA, we have worked with Dr. Becky Lang for over a decade now to help us shift and shape our culture. As an organization committed to strengthening our community, the coaching and training skills that Dr. Lang has provided have helped us immensely. With her education and guidance she has helped us establish a culture that focuses on building meaningful relationships with our members, focusing on their needs, and coaching them towards success in their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Lang has trained all levels of our staff from our front line Wellness Coaches to our Executive Directors and Leadership Teams. Her on-going support has allowed the coaching-culture to come alive in our organization.”

Kim Stewart Kim Stewart Director of Operations, YMCA of Greater Des Moines

“The training Becky provided has been one of the most rewarding nursing experience I have had in 30 years. The style of interviewing and teaching patients is rewarding and positive. Her techniques drive the sessions to be more personal and patient-centered. Through Becky’s teaching, I was comfortable to practice and get familiar with the motivational interviewing process. Becky is an exceptional trainer and I recommend her training to all health coaches and educators.”

Sandy LovelessRN, Motivational Interviewing training participant

“The motivational interviewing techniques Becky teaches allow patients to set goals and work toward changes that are important to them. Patients feel in control of their own health and allow me to be in a more supportive roll. Becky has a positive and uplifting spirit that makes her classes extremely enjoyable.”

Tyra CarltonRN, Motivational Interviewing training participant

“Rebecca Lang was a respected colleague who diligently served as a teacher and mentor to hundreds of students over her long career at Grand View University. I had the distinct pleasure to work with Becky and regularly witness her vocation to Wellness education. She motivates those around her by a strong and genuine commitment to a lifestyle which promotes health and well-being.”

Katharina TumpekPhD, Professor and former Chair, Dept. of Health Promotions, Grand View University

“It has been a pleasure to work with Becky Lang over the last 25 years. Within a variety of contexts in the wellness arena, I have witnessed Dr. Lang’s mastery as a wellness educator, a health coach, a professor, and, most recently, as a health coaching trainer. I could go on at length about Dr. Lang’s passion, enthusiasm, high energy, wisdom, and deep knowledge in health promotion and behavior change. One of the attributes that impresses me most, though, is her ability to create a relaxed, fun, interactive, and content-rich training environment. Her refreshingly supportive, inviting, and empathic style of training and coaching allows learners to take risks, experiment, try on new skills, and participate authentically in role play exercises without feeling awkward and intimidated. Through Dr. Lang’s coaching and training, people learn–often more than they imagined.”

Jill NorrisRN, MPH, PCMH-CCE, Director, Care Management, University of Iowa Health Alliance