By Mary Wolf, MS, LPC-MH
President, Veritee Partners
In coaching physicians through the COVID coaster, we discuss their frustration with patients who refuse vaccinations.
It usually comes down to a clash of values involving personal health, others’ health, power, privacy, trust, masks, vaccines, patriotism, individuality, innovation, leadership, autonomy, community, politics, unity, open-mindedness, peace, just to name some.
Physicians have been working through values clashes with patients long before COVID. For example, the patient who doesn’t take their insulin, or drinks until their liver gives out, or continues to smoke.
But these complex patient decisions have not directly affected the physician as much as the COVID driven choice to not vaccinate. The decision of patients not to vaccinate takes a higher toll on physicians, often causing more work, greater demands, longer hours, additional stress, bigger sacrifices, and more grief/loss/trauma. A recent survey found 8 in 10 U.S. physicians were impacted in a variety of ways due to COVID-19 and that the pandemic continues to negatively impact the well-being of physicians and patients a year later. (https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/practices/new-survey-finds-significant-toll-covid-19-physicians).
How can physicians negotiate these differences in values?
- Stick to the facts with patients. Do not argue.
- Advocate as much as you can without it stealing the joy in medicine.
- Work on having impact instead of trying to control other’s behavior.
- Physicians can try to influence their patients, colleagues, friends, and family who have different values and beliefs. However, there is no need to spend precious energy trying to defend and convince others as they are often deeply set in their viewpoints without any openness to change.
- Set good boundaries of your time and energy around these difficult discussions and issues at work, home, and on social media.
- Focus on identifying and living your own values.
- When we are clear on our own values, we can focus and build a strong strategy based on our own passions, beliefs, and priorities.
- Work on energy management–how do you want to use emotional and physical energy so that you still have some energy for home life and self-care?
- Ask others for help.
- Physicians often forget this option. It might be a nurse who can give a summary of CDC guidelines to a patient, maybe an administrator who can help with policy change, or a colleague who can give a much-needed break after a frustrating morning. Advocate for yourself.
Even when we don’t agree or understand others’ values, compassion and respect continue to be driving forces for good medical care. Those are values upon which we can all agree.
To learn more about Mary Wolf, her physician coaching programs, and culture of wellbeing consulting, go to www.veriteepartners.com