On Difficult Cases

There was a discussion recently in a Facebook group regarding frustrations with difficult patient encounters and advice on how to best manage these cases. Here below, I have provided a brief list of advice imparted onto me by mentors of mine. Hopefully this helps…..


One of the best pieces of advice a professor of mine gave me was “that you cannot control how people act, you can only control how you react”. This simple quote or credo is so incredibly true and is a great approach to life in general. People can be irrational and their actions frustrating, both of which may become magnified surrounding episodes of poor health.

Another thing to consider, which is a message I’ve adapted from an icon of mine Cael Sanderson, is that every challenge that you face is an opportunity for growth and that we should look forward to challenges; they make us better. Difficult patient encounters are opportunities to learn how to manage difficult patient encounters and it will get easier. It’s also always important to consider that the people we serve could choose elsewhere. They don’t have to be in our clinics. Even in public or federal systems, the patient can still choose to not show up. Take it as a privilege that YOU get to SERVE them and even though they may state that they don’t want to be there, they still decided to show up. Also realize, (and I’ve learned this working with many disadvantaged populations) for many people, even getting to the clinic may be more difficult than you may ever realize.

Regarding verbose patients; there are many people who come to our clinics who have never had the opportunity to speak to a healthcare provider about their problems. Some may not have the opportunity to share their frustrations with anyone who cares or has concern for them. This issue of social isolation and loneliness is a real and growing problem in our modern society. Therefore, consider it a privilege that they are comfortable enough to be verbose with you. Just taking time to listen to them can go a long way. In terms of managing verbosity, because there are time constraints to clinical practice, what I have found to be useful is to try to steer their conversation around the goals for the session or intercede with questions that may help redirect it.  Always try to acknowledge what the patient has said before talking, this helps convey that you did listen to them (you really should be), which is important for building trust and rapport. This process can be difficult but it gets easier over time as well.
Regarding patients who are difficult to convince or establish buy-in for your plan of care, especially those who may believe in more liberal interpretations of physiology, be persistent and steadfast but always be respectful and considerate. Remember that few people possess the specific knowledge of human physiology to determine a falsehood from truth as it pertains to disease and 88% of US population is insufficiently healthcare literate. Given these factors, and others it is incredibly difficult to change someone’s views once they have internalized information; ie “You can’t sell meat to vegans and you can’t convince a carnivore to eat vegetables”. If their views interfere with your best judgment as a provider, consider referring them elsewhere; it’s probably best for both. We as a profession and field (healthcare) need to do a better job addressing this process of translating knowledge to our communities both at the clinic level and institutional level. But it all starts with a conversation and re-framing expectations with each individual. At the fundamental level, a clinician is an educator and motivator.

These are just some recommendations and tips. I don’t practice as much now but can recall how difficult it can be in the clinic and realize that things are rarely ideal and we all have our limits. However, if you consider some of these basic principles and perspectives, it helps make difficult situations a bit less stressful when they do occur.

 

(Image courtesy of Gomerblog.com)

10 Quick Tips for Staying Up To Date

Following some of the conversations that came out the #SocialPT talk I gave at CSM 2017 with Ben Fung, Greg Todd and Brett Kestenbaum(video via UpDoc Media), I felt it would be useful to create a resource to help students and clinicians stay up to date with the evidence. As an emerging researcher and academic, I am passionate about serving this profession as both a purveyor and guide of knowledge to help inform the care provided in our communities. No more ivory towers and no more “knowledge obscura”. We are all our profession’s keeper and the better informed we all are individually, the better off our profession will be collectively. In the list below, I have provided 10 easy tips to help clinicians and students stay current through a variety of different methods, many of which only require a small addition to a typical day. 90% of them are completely free and 100% are of no additional cost for APTA members. Choose one or choose all 10!

1) Use the APTA PTNow website ($)

PT Now is a resource designed for APTA members which provides summary findings on clinical questions, access to clinical practice guidelines, validated outcome measures and an article search function. Also be sure to check out the APTA PT Outcomes Registry. This project will allow clinicians to participate in the research process by contributing outcomes data to a national registry. The data from this project will be instrumental in advancing care for our patients and creating leverage with legislators and policy makers.

2) Create a PubMed MyNCBI account and create saved searches (free)

This will allows users to track research topics, questions or relationships that interest them. Users can then schedule email reminders on these topics as new papers are published. Though these are only abstracts, it’s a good start and often once the PubMed link is obtained most people have an easier time finding the manuscript. There are also many articles available through PubMed Central, a database designed to host biomedical information free to the public. I have included a YouTube video of how to set up a MyNCBI account and saved searches as well as a step by step instruction with pictures.

YouTube Demo

How to set up “saved searches”

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Step 1. Create a MyNCBI account

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Step 2. After creating a MyNCBI account, log in and perform a search on a topic that interests you; i.e. “Back Pain”

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Step 3. After the search is performed, click on “Create Alert”

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Step 4. Create a saved search with scheduled reminders delivered to your email at a frequency of your choosing.

3) Push notifications” from Journal Twitter accounts

This will push notifications to your phone whenever the Twitter account for a selected journal posts. Many  of these Twitter accounts also have public “lists” of journals, clinicians and researchers they follow which may help structure your search, as an examples the Cardiopulmonary Section’s Twitter Account has two (one cardiac and one pulmonary/critical care). I have included a step by step instruction with pictures for both.

How to “Push Notifications on Twitter”

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Step 1. Click/tap on the notifications icon

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Step 2. Select “All Tweets”

How to subscribe to a “list” on a Twitter account

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Step 1. Click/tap on the settings button.

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Step 2. Select view lists

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Step 3. Select a list you would like to subscribe to.

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Step 4. Click/tap “subscribe”

4) Subscribe YouTube channels and Podcasts (free)

These platforms provide synthesized content on research or clinical topics. The content on podcasts will generally be audio only and Youtube Channels will usually use both visual and audio. These resources are great since they can be listened to while doing something else, such as the ride to and from work or while exercising. Podcasts are particularly great because if users have the podcast app for iTunes, updates to podcasts they subscribe to are automatically pushed to their phone. I have compiled a good list of YouTube Channels and Podcasts for physical therapists here but be sure to perform your own search to find channels or podcasts that interest you. A few of the YouTube channels I subscribe to are the New England Journal of Medicine, British Journal of Sports Medicine and Heart by the British Medical Journal. Also don’t forget to check out the Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Journal Podcast!

5) Register/Subscribe to a journal email list (free)

This allows users to receive an updates on new publications and papers published ahead of print. I have provided a step by step example for how to do it through the New England Journal of Medicine, a journal that also often publishes open access (free) manuscripts.

How to “Register/Subscribe to a journal email list”

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Step 1. Click “Register”

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Step 2. Fill in your email and select a password to register. A confirmation email will be sent to you.

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Step 3. Select the “content alerts” and specialty areas you would like to receive emails about. Some journals may not have multiple options.

6) Follow Facebook pages for journals (free)

This tip is similar to “pushing notifications” for twitter. However, an advantage of doing this through Facebook is that more people both have Facebook accounts and check them daily than Twitter. One of the easiest ways to keep up to date with the evidence is make it a component of your daily life.

How to “Push Notifications on For a Facebook Page”

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Step 1. Click on the “Following” button

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Step 2. Click/Tap the notifications tab, then under “Posts” select receive notifications from “All Posts”

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Step 3. Click/Tap the “News Feed” Tab and choose “see notifications from this page on your timeline first”. This places posts from this page at the top of your timeline (not necessary but useful for many)

7) Follow individual researchers (free)

Many researchers have social media accounts and a large portion of them are fairly active, especially on Twitter I actually made a list of some of these accounts worth checking out. Users can also, “push notifications” from their accounts too! I would also recommend signing up for researchgate, this site is increasingly being used by both researchers and clinicians alike. On this site many researchers provide full texts of their papers that can be downloaded, usually 1 year post publication. Users can also request papers from researchers that aren’t publicly available yet on researchgate.

8) Join in the discussions on twitter (free)

To join in these discussions follow hashtags such as #solvePT or #BackPain. To be more specific, I would also recommend using Symplur , a free healthcare hashtag aggregator to help find topics that interest you and even monthly twitter journal clubs such as BMJ Heart’s “Heart Journal Club” #HeartJC .

9) Join in discussions on Facebook groups (free)

One of the best ways to stay informed is to regularly participate in professional discourse. This allows clinicians to appreciate different perspectives from colleagues and to have their biases potentially challenged. Even if you don’t participate, observing some of the discussions from a distance can be useful too! Doctor of Physical Therapy Students or Physical Therapy Practice Education and Networking are two of the largest and most active groups. These groups are also great for asking questions and sharing information.

10) Create a system to manage your citations (free)

As you begin to accumulate resources, especially published work it is important to keep track of them in an organized fashion. This allows you to quickly reference papers and to search for them later. I use Mendeley and Google Drive; both are free to use and excellent software solutions! Mendeley also offers a google chrome extension that allows me to cite resources as I browse. Google Drive has a desktop app that allows me to save files locally on my hard-drive while also continuously and simultaneously pushing files to a cloud based folder which can be accessed anywhere with internet access; even on my phone with the Google Drive App.


I hope these quick tips will provide a better infrastructure for both finding research papers and regularly consuming evidence. If we are all individually more up to date with the scientific literature, better informed decisions can be made for the people and communities we serve!

On Truth (Quick Post)

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I came across this photo earlier and after viewing some discussions regarding EBP I decided to write a brief post on it.

 

People often attempt to conceptualize and understand complex topics to fit their world view and biases. This is human nature; as it is difficult to deconstruct information and assess it critically while acknowledging and remaining critical of one’s own biases. This is true for both patients and providers. The attainment of truth and knowledge is a difficult task but necessary. However in this current healthcare system untruths, oversimplifications, obfuscations, conflations and care lacking a trace of plausible evidence is reimbursable. Obscure, esoteric and novel (for the sake of being novel) methods and treatments are also easier to market; as are panacea. Imagine the perspective of the patient and their expectations. This is why the guru and missing link nature is so prominent and pervasive, which is not isolated to chiropractic. Until this issue and it’s multiple components is addressed as a society this issue will continue to perpetuate.

 

Simply put: “The truth defies simplicity”