3 Ways Physicians can Improve Adaptability Skills

July 18th, 2014 6 Min read 3 Ways Physicians can Improve Adaptability Skills Blog

Doctors who travel to new practices face a host of complex challenges. They interact with new colleagues and patients and often work with new tools and processes. Adaptability is one of the most important qualities a locum provider can possess. There are three tools that can help a doctor become more adaptable to new surroundings.

Begin with the Right Attitude

First, begin with the right attitude. A positive outlook doesn't just happen. You will need to envision yourself succeeding. To do this, create a mental image of yourself being a good listener, maintaining an open mind for new learning and contributing to the overall success of the practice.

Just as a professional athlete creates a detailed mental image of his peak performance, you should take a few minutes to decide how you will show up. As you create an image of your best self, remember that having a good attitude directly affects how you treat others. This includes qualities such as willingness, humility, kindness, sincere interest in others, good communication, curiosity, respect for others and being comfortable with diversity.

As you prepare to step into your new role, remember that despite external negative or challenging influences, you can maintain a good attitude. As you have experienced, the stresses and rigors of the day will test you. To be adaptable, you will need to show leadership by remaining poised and in control of your emotions.

Clip this quote about attitude by pastor Charles Swindoll and place it on your mirror:

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company ... a church ... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past ... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude ... I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you ... we are in charge of our attitudes."

Remember that it would be a mistake to arrive at a new practice not having given thought about how you will act. Check yourself first and make sure you are going to go with your best attitude.

Focus on Others When Communicating

Next, remember that even in the midst of extreme change, your focus should be on others and their needs. Make sure that when you talk to others, ask open-ended questions that will allow them to share more detail. If you pepper people with yes or no questions, you will end up with only part of the picture — the part you want to see.

One important way to focus is to make eye contact. When people look at each other in the eye, it changes the tone and content of what is said. A solid stare is not what we are going for, but a sincere and comfortable connection should be made. Maintaining eye contact helps establish rapport, trust and open communication.

Being tuned into what others are saying and what they need is one of the best ways to stay adaptable. Those who have been working at the practice know how things work. They will give you tips and clues on how to fit in. Sometimes these clues are not explicit as they forget to communicate or don't know the best way to train you. Remember that you are new to them, and they don't know your learning style. Stay focused on their words, body language and actions.

As speaker and author Stephen R. Covey says, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." If you pay careful attention, you will listen better to what people are saying. You will take less time formulating what you are going to say in response before others finish their sentences. By paying close attention, you will gain specific answers and insights that will help you become a better provider. You will catch on faster to what is going on around you.

An adaptable physician is one who hones his or her communication skills. Make sure that when you go into a new environment, you focus on others and ensure that they are being listened to.

Show an Increase of Gratitude

Last, show an increase in gratitude. Bring with you an overall respect and appreciation for others. People will readily recognize the way you show respect to all. When you are cordial and show professional courtesy, you build instant credibility.

When you are a guest or newcomer, people have to take on some of your workload. They spend valuable time and energy to work with you. Make sure that you thank them for their sacrifices.

Thanking others can take many forms. One way to show thanks is to express it sincerely and more often. Another important way is to put it in writing. An e-mail outlining specific things that someone did to help you goes a long way. A handwritten card is rare treasure and appreciated by all.

In any new situation, make sure you are showing an increase of gratitude. It will serve to build long-lasting relationships.

In any new situation, having the right attitude, focusing on others when communicating and showing an increase of gratitude will help you adapt to any challenging environment. Your preparation and attention to adaptability will reward you with excellent reviews and patient satisfaction.