Patience is a Virtue in Today’s Radiology Environment

October 18, 2012

Sometimes to work fast you have to work slowly. It takes double the time to fix a clerical mistake in health care, so take the extra time to get it right.

I consider myself a patient individual, and other people’s lack of patience is really testing my patience. People are always in a hurry to get somewhere or get something done. When the staff I work with have a very busy day and make a mistake, it is usually a result of being in a hurry to get the associated tasks done so the next patient gets in at their appointed time.

I really appreciate their concern for the value of a patient’s time; however, I tell them that there are times that to work fast you have to work slowly. By this I mean that it takes double the time to fix a clerical mistake like selecting the wrong patient name on a work list or selecting an incorrect patient account number. Instead, take the extra time to get it right.

There have been many instances where I have talked with outpatients who have become inpatients because of waiting past their appointment times because of unseen circumstances. Maybe the previous patient took longer than expected or there was an emergency. From my experience, as long as we are honest with patients when they show up for their appointment and tell them there will be a wait they seem to be more understanding. I often tell patients “you cannot rush health care.” It is amazing the number of people who agree with this.

I have been in radiology management for more than 20 years and it really tests my patience when an employee wants a quick and solid decision, especially if there is emotion involved. Over the years I have learned to never make important decisions when my emotions are at a low or when they are high. It opens the door for making a mistake, and as I’ve said, fixing the mistake always takes longer. Many of the decisions made in radiology management require patience. It takes information gathering, looking at the information, and then making a decision. I once had an employee pressuring me to make a quick decision regarding a human resource issue and I told them not to back me into a corner. That seemed to get their attention!

Over the years that I have been in radiology management I have learned there are going to be many occurrences that test my patience. I often resort to two pieces of advice in the Book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work by Richard Carlson: Absorb the speed bumps of your day, and accept the fact that every once in a while you’re going to have a really bad day.

Jim Lipcamon, BS, RT(R), is outpatient imaging services manager for East Cooper Medical Center in Mt. Pleasant, SC.