For many of us, our toughest opponent isn’t our boss, co-worker, or golf rival. It’s the internal monologue playing inside our heads. The one that plays into the patient experience nearly every moment of the day is the one that says, “I don’t have time.” Saying that over and over to yourself throughout the day adds pressure, making you feel even more harried. Time is one of our most precious resources. True, it’s limited, but we all have the same number of minutes in the day. I have found that, by telling myself over and over, that I don’t have time becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When I catch myself, I try to play a new message – I have time for what’s most important.
A few years ago, I was coaching some nurses on behaviors to improve the patient experience. I had suggested that, before leaving a patient’s room they stop and ask if there is anything more that they can do for the patient, adding, “I have time.”
One of the nurses in the group got very upset with me. A night nurse on the med/surge floor, she constantly felt stretched for time. She felt that by my asking her to say this, I was being insensitive to her situation and her needs. I was grateful that she brought up these concerns as it gave me the opportunity to discuss the power of self-talk.
I explained to her that, having been a night nurse myself, I understood how busy they can be. I also shared something I had learned about inner monologue or self-talk. I asked her to take a second before walking into the patient room to take a deep breath and get centered so she could be fully present to engage better. Then do the same thing before leaving the room and asking what else she could do. I encouraged her to give it a three week trial.
At the end of the three weeks she told me that doing this repeatedly actually helped her to feel calmer and more focused on her patients. She reported, “I can’t believe it. I actually feel like I have more time by saying it over and over.” She had conquered her worst enemy with her own thoughts.