5 Important Lessons I’ve Learned in Practice

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Every day, the world seems to spin faster—and the health care system keeps pace. But despite modern advances, some of the essential lessons a PA or an NP can learn are rooted in “old-school” values. A seasoned clinician shares her top 5 tips from the trenches.


Health care is a constantly changing field, thanks to innovative research and technological advancements. And with optimal team practice and full practice authority, PAs and NPs are poised to drive further improvements to patient care. But while we all recognize the need to keep learning, some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my career have little to do with the “latest and greatest” tools—they are fundamentals of being a good person and effective health care provider. I would like to share some of them with you.

1 It’s OK to make a mistake, but be sure to own it and learn from it.

You can’t grow as a person or a provider if you can’t acknowledge failure and vow to improve. Don’t become complacent; a little bit of fear keeps us on our toes and hopefully out of trouble.

It always seems to be Friday at 4:45 pm when you receive that phone call from the pharmacist asking, “Did you really want to prescribe amoxicillin/clavulanate to Mrs. Jones? She’s allergic to penicillin.” You quickly check the EMR and don’t see that specific allergy listed. You choose an alternative medication and send the prescription back to the pharmacy.

But while many providers would stop there, assuming that they have solved the problem, I would advocate for calling the patient directly and addressing the issue head-on. The patient may be thinking, “What an idiot, she missed that in my chart.” Clearly, there was a breakdown in the process, but you are the one who is ultimately responsible.

A phone call to verify the allergy and the type of reaction is very valuable. It proves to the patient that you take patient care seriously and that you recognize that the system needs to be improved.

2 Find one thing in common with each patient, even if it is something small.

Maybe you grew up in the same town, or like the same sports team, or enjoy the same type of food. It isn’t difficult to find a commonality; a note in the patient’s chart ensures you’ll remember. That personal touch demonstrates that you care and increases the patient’s comfort with you.

This technique can make a huge difference with a “difficult” patient. One day, a new patient presented to my office for a change in bowel habits. He was clearly anxious and angry with his wife (who accompanied him) for “making me come here.”

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