In part VII of this series I discussed how to use questions, small tests and physical activities to involve your patients in order to maximize their retention of what you are teaching them. In this part, I will address how a doctor can easily overcome his or her fear of teaching.
From Fear to Confidence
I remember years ago walking into a particular church for the first time. I was shocked to see youth and lay people from the congregation giving the sermon. After the service I asked one of the members about it and he said the leader of the congregation was sitting up front. He went on to say that church members, lay persons like you and me, are assigned the subjects on which to speak and are given a week or two to prepare their sermons.
When I was asked if I wanted to be baptized in their church I remember saying something like, I sure do but on one condition, and that is that I will never be asked to go up front and give a talk!’ Thankfully, the church new better than I and I have now been in front of congregations giving talks for over 30 years. I have given sermons, preached, taught, and trained. I am thankful because the church did not allow me to stand in my own way and keep me from experiencing something that I have come to enjoy helping others by giving them the knowledge to help themselves teaching.
Yes, I was more than a little intimidated at first, but each time I got up and spoke I felt a little less nervous and a bit more confident. As I look back and analyze how my fear of speaking disappeared after a period of time, I realize it was a simple matter of knowing my subjects - I studied, I learned, and I spoke often.
Experience and Knowledge Breeds Confidence
If you are a doctor who truly understands his material, you will quickly lose your fear of teaching others about it. Consider the doctor who goes to court ignorant of current applicable research material and with poorly kept records. Of course he´s nervous he´s grossly unprepared. But the doctor who is prepared academically and has annotated notes on each patient visit will be able to handle the courtroom experience with confidence and ease. The same is true for getting up and speaking in front of audiences if you make a point of knowing your subject well, any fear you may have had will quickly disappear.
The second element to the fear of teaching, is the tension created out of nervous anticipation. Before you even step in front of the group you´re asking yourself questions like, I wonder what they´ll be thinking,’ I wonder if they will accept me,’ I wonder if they´ll be able to tell how nervous I am,’ etc. But, consider this as a member of an audience what do you think about? You think about what you might learn. The same goes for your patients. They know you are an expert because you are a doctor. They have already accepted you by the mere fact that they came to hear you speak. So, simply teach them what you know. Your only thoughts should be that you are knowledgeable, you love your audience, they came to hear you and you are excited to share your knowledge with them.
Observe to Learn
Whether you attend practice-building seminars online or in person, take note of how the instructors handle themselves in front of a group. Many of them are master teachers and will appear comfortably at home in front of the group. They have developed their confidence and teaching skills through experience (doing it often) and knowledge (learning and staying current of the subject on which they speak).
Trust Your Consultant´s Teaching Recommendations
Trust your consultant when he or she tells you that educating your patients is vitally important to your success. Listen to your consultant´s suggestions on scripts and handling patients´ objections. Follow exactly what your consultant teaches you and put it into practice. Only when you put into practice what you learn, will you be able to realize the true value of educating your patients and doing it well.
Develop Your Skills by Regularly Attending Seminars
Just as schoolteachers, professional speakers and preachers continue to learn and perfect their skills, so, too, should you. Throughout your career, attend a number of different seminars on a number of different topics, i.e. technique, treatment, management, business and practice building. Some consultants will offer several classes during the same seminar that will cover more than one of the topics you desire. Also consider periodic seminars for motivating and helping your staff sharpen their skills. Regular seminar attendance, whether online or in person, will increase your knowledge giving you the confidence you need to become a great teacher.
The sooner you accept your role as a teacher the sooner you will take the steps to learn the most effective ways to educate your patients. You will learn how to be more astute in what you say, how to say it, how to demonstrate it and when to say it. You will understand the importance of having scripts, models, and pamphlets strategically placed throughout your office. Confidence will soon replace fear as you acquire a masterful knowledge of the subject(s) you want to teach and as you teach more and more. If you want to develop a strong referral practice, teaching is the way to do it. Now, go forward and teach!