Locum Tenens Physicians: 3 Tips for Dealing with Conflict

February 24th, 2015 4 Min read Locum Tenens Physicians: 3 Tips for Dealing with Conflict Blog
locum-conflictWe don’t like to admit that things go wrong, but not every day can be sunshine and rainbows — and the same goes for locum tenens assignments. Your flight is cancelled. Someone says something offensive to you. Someone brushes you off. Before you know it, you think the universe is conspiring against you. I was having a day like this recently but was able to manage a smile. Someone I know recognized what was happening and asked, “How do you keep smiling on a day like this?” From my experience there are at least three fundamentals to turning a day from bad to good.

1. Take a minute to make an inventory of all the things that are going right.

Make a mental list of things that are going well right now. It takes focus to recognize good things that are happening, so take a break to concentrate. You may even want to physically write down things that come to mind, starting with the obvious and seemingly mundane things like health, food, transportation, safety, etc. Recognizing the most basic positive things in life will get your mental wheels turning. Think about the small and simple things around you, and avoid filtering anything out. Everyone has something to be grateful for, even in the worst locum tenens assignment. When you have your list, take a moment to let it sink in. You’ll find a reason to hope and, in turn, smile.

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” — Cynthia Ozick

2. Broaden your perspective.

Perspective is a 360-degree view. First, think long term. The law of averages is on your side; a string of good things will follow a string of bad. In other words, you can’t be down forever. Looking forward to better times ahead is important, but it’s even more important to believe that better days are around the corner. If you can, reset for the rest of the day instead of waiting for tomorrow to begin. Choose an event you are looking forward to (a vacation, for example) and focus on that. In addition to the future, consider past wins — even small ones. How many times did you feel good about your overall circumstances? What were some of your best days as a physician? We often undervalue our past wins because we are so focused on achieving growth or improvement. Your good days are still a part of you. Look to people around you. As a physician, you see people everywhere with their own problems and struggles. Take time to ask others about their day and listen to their responses. Find opportunities to walk in someone else’s shoes. One of my neighbors is currently fighting cancer and noticed a man who had fallen on the sidewalk. She stopped her car, pulled off her oxygen line and rushed to help him. The man had bumped his head, and she was able to stop the bleeding and have her daughter call 911. Fortunately, he got the help he needed and made a full recovery. What stays with me is that she easily could have been consumed in her own troubles and simply failed to notice someone else in need. How many people in need do we miss?

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett    

3. Call a friend.

Just like the game Who Wants to be a Millionaire, you might have to call a friend who has a different view when things go wrong — ideally someone who is trustworthy, has your best interests in mind and won’t judge. Not all friends are created equal, but hopefully you can find the type of friend that will listen. Here at CompHealth we strive to be strong professional friends. I proactively reach out to my providers and ask them about their experiences and how their day is going. I hear concerns that run the gambit from personal to professional, and I always work to find solutions and a positive resolution to make their work the best it can be. It’s not always possible to make everything better when a flight is cancelled or a doctor becomes ill, but we still do all we can to help.

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”—Helen Keller

So take a deep breath, exhale, and don’t worry. Things are going to look up. Check out my post “3 Ways Physicians Can Improve Adaptability Skills” for more tips on managing conflict during your locum tenens assignment.