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Six Strategies To Enhance Efficiency At Work For Physicians

Jun 13, 2024

If you are an established full-time physician, chances are you have a pretty full schedule most of the time. If you work in the inpatient setting, you likely have enough patients to spend eight hours, if not more, to take care of them. When you have a busy schedule, would it not be nice to bring nothing home from work?

Work efficiency matters. Every second matters. Here are six strategies to help you be efficient and leave work on time – with your work done.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to set the tone for the day. Your attitude matters. What you think matters. Your thoughts generate emotions. Those emotions are your fuel. Positive emotions are more efficient. They make you feel better too. On the other hand, negative emotions can drag your day out. Immersed in negative emotions decreases your ability to focus, to engage in tasks or interactions. Negative emotions are unpleasant to experience.

Decide how you want your day to be like – in general. For example, you want your day to be manageable. Or you want your day to be pleasant. Experience the emotion generated with that particular thought. Utilizing the positive emotion to be your fuel source enhances efficiency. Remind yourself throughout the day.

The second strategy is to be at work early. If your first patient is scheduled at 8 am, be at the office around 30 minutes before that. When you arrive at 8 am or later, you already have a late start. It is easy for you feel rushed or even think that you do not have enough time to see your patients. Arriving early allows you the time a settle down. It is also a time you get to catch up on test results, manage the inbox or task manager. You may also use that time to practice mindfulness before you start seeing patients.

Even before I was able to go home on time with my work done, I was going to the office 35 to 40 minutes early. That was a relatively calm period for me. And it still is. I take my time to wash my hands, turn on the computer, check results from the patients I saw the day before, and send messages to my staff. Then I am starting my day “fresh” when I see the first patient.

When you are early, you are more likely to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the day. You get to feel more calm and confident to ensure you have a good day.

The third strategy is preparation. No matter what you do, preparation sets up for the actual task. Sometimes, the preparation time is more than the actual event, such as planning for a wedding. Depending on your specialty, it is always helpful to know your patients ahead of time.

If you are in a more unpredictable environment, such as emergency medicine, you usually do not have the privilege to know what patients you will encounter. Even so, you can prepare yourself by staying up to date with the latest development in your specialty.

For physicians who have scheduled patients, remind yourself who they are and what their diagnoses are. Do you have to order any special tests for a certain patient? For me, in hematology and oncology, I usually know my patients well. As part of the preparation work, I remind myself who is due to receive chemotherapy, imaging studies, etc. If there is a more complicated patient, I may prepare by doing some research or consult my colleagues.  This way, I do not have to look up the information during the patient encounter, which saves me time.

The fourth strategy is to be mindful of the clock. For example, if you are scheduled to see a patient every 15 minutes, your goal is to see the patient, order the necessary tests and medications and close your chart – all within the 15 minutes. When you happen to spend more time with one patient, either because of their medical condition, or because they are 5 minutes late, you do your best to “make up” the time by being more focused with the next patient.

The fifth strategy is to do one thing at a time. Prioritize what is to be done first. By focusing on doing one thing at a time, you get to be more efficient. It takes you a shorter period of time to complete the task. If you try to do multiple things at once, it will take you longer to do all those things compared to if you do them one at a time. You have a higher tendency to make mistakes when you attempt to multi-task. Our brain is not designed to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. The topic of focus will be discussed more in detail in another blog.

The sixth strategy is to take breaks. Taking breaks is essential. It allows your mind and body to recharge, so you can maintain your focus and efficiency. When you are stuck, taking a break may help you find the solution to the problem. Schedule breaks throughout the day, even for five to ten minutes at a time. Schedule and respect your lunch break. This is the time to recharge for the second half of the day. Do something different in your break. Stay away from any screens. Take a walk outside. Stretch your arms and legs.

There are many ways to improve your efficiency as a physician. Setting the tone of the day of intentionally choosing what you think and how you feel is an important start. Being at work earlier than your scheduled start time allows you to mentally prepare for the day, and to catch up from the day before. Prepare by reading up on patients or their diagnoses will let you focus on interacting with the patient and taking care of the patient. Always be mindful of the time. Focus on one thing at a time, one patient at a time. Prioritize what to do first. Finally, taking breaks will enhance your work efficiency.  

Are you ready to stop feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Are you ready to have more time to do what you want?


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