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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Patient orientated versus task orientated

Sometimes we medical caregivers become so involved in the task that we forget the patient is a real person.  In a way, it's almost as though we are running an assembly line and each patient is simply a part that needs fixing.

Yet patients are real people.  So this means that we have to focus extra hard on getting the task done without compromising the personal experience.  We must always put the patient first and the task second.

Allow for a few definitions:

1.  Patient orientated:  You put the patient first.  You consider the religious and emotional needs of the patient prior to performing any task.

2.  Task orientated:  You put your task first. 

We're often asked to do so much that it's easy to become task orientated.  This is most common in busy patient areas, like the ER.  It's easy to just walk into a room and poke a patient without clearly explaining what you're doing.  You're goal here is to get the task done and quickly move on to the next task.

Yet most patients hate this.  It makes the RN or RT or doctor appear to lack a personality.  You become ruthless, condescending and arrogant.  You may not mean to be this way, but you will by default as a task orientated person.

Surely there are times when being task orientated is necessary, such as when the life of the person is at stake and some swift action is necessary.  Yet more often than not the task must take a back seat to the patient.

Task orientated people tend to get angry when the patient isn't compliant, or when the patient refuses therapy.  I've seen many doctors get mad at such patients. 

A good example is the nurse who comes into the room of a 3 YO little girl and says, "Well, I have a shot.  Will you help me hold her down so we can give it."  Yep.  That's not good.  That's a task orientated person for you.

A people orientated person has more empathy than that.  A good example of a people orientated action was when my reserved 3 YO daughter needed a chest x-ray.  Instead of just expecting my daughter to comply and shooting the x-ray, the lady had my daughter sit upright and she said, "Now look into the little tube.  You'll see the bubble guppies.  All you have to do is hold your breath and..."

Voila.  She got my daughter to sit still while she took the x-ray.

RT Rule #57:  The best caregivers are people orientated first, task orientated second.

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