How nice is too nice?

no more dr. nice guy

Sometimes it feels like you can’t do enough for a patient. You are clinically competent, you are professional, you are cheerful and you love them… and yet they discontinue care when their symptoms leave. Why does that happen? It’s a classic case of being too nice! It seems like the more things you do for patients, the more they want. Isn’t it about time to stop this nonsense? Patients need boundaries and they need love in the form of discipline. When a parent doesn’t set boundaries, in the long run, the child loses. The same thing happens when a DC doesn’t set boundaries – the community loses and there is one more person with a loss of purpose and an “I don’t care” mentality. They never fully commit to anything in life.

Your patients are not seeking answers when they ask you the same old silly questions – they are seeking a re-clarification of the doctor-patient relationship. When you answer the “You’re not going to adjust me today?”, “You want me to come in 3x a week?”, “You don’t take any kind of insurance?” rhetorical questions, you are labeling yourself to the patient as a follower instead of what they are looking for… a leader!

What makes a leader?

In the book Cesar’s Way by Cesar Millan of “Dog Whisperer” fame, Millan talks about the fact that dogs need to feel secure in their leaders. If you represent yourself as a follower, dogs will reward you with unwanted behavior to get attention. Likewise, if you represent yourself as a follower to patients, they reward you with short term care, lack of follow-through, decreased referral, not attending the New Patient Orientation and, of course, not embracing family care.

Cesar Millan stresses throughout the book that the ingredients in a well-balanced dog are exercise, discipline, and affection in that order. When we leave out one or all of the ingredients of this formula, the results are an unbalanced dog that will exhibit behaviors that can be dangerous or even life-threatening. Being nice won’t make a bit of difference.

Do your patients get exercise, discipline, and affection?

The same is true of patients. In the hundreds of practices I’ve visited as I’ve been doing Chiropractic coaching, one of the biggest problems I’ve observed is lack of discipline. When you are a leader, discipline comes with the territory. When you are a follower, you are relegated to giving people what they want. Just like an overwhelmed parent, you cave in to your patient’s demands. You fall back on being nice.

Imagine a married man and a woman living in a monogamous relationship. One night, one of them rolls over in bed and announces that they would like to “see” other people. What is urgently necessary is not to answer the question, but to clarify the relationship. To answer the question only adds to the confusion of the relationship and the tangled emotions of the two involved. If you clearly state that this is not an option for you, you are clearly stating your intentions. At that point, there are two possibilities: the relationship may have deteriorated to the point of no return or there may be an opening for a rebirth of that relationship because it’s been clarified.

When nice doesn’t cut it

Patients need this clarification as well. Do you think that if you treat them extra nice they will stay, bring their families, and all will be wonderful? Wake up doctor, splash some cold water on your face, go to your old discontinued files and look at the hundreds or even thousands of people who beg to differ with your line of reasoning. They are gone and the majority will not be returning unless they are injured and their insurance covers it. How long are you going to continue to act this way?

Boundaries and love in the form of discipline are what every patient needs, but some will not accept you as a leader. Allow those people to leave. It simply opens up room for the patients who understand commitment and discipline, and are looking for a true leader. The real question is, will you step up as a leader and risk disappointing some of your old patients to attract a new breed of patients who willingly participate without tricks or coupons and who will accept you as a leader for their whole family? Gain the courage to be a leader and set boundaries with your patients.

And if you need a few pointers, we’ve got just the thing: 30 days of free coaching!