That’s right; there are only 10 minutes per consultation. It may not sound much and for most of the clinicians 10 minutes is all they have. Therefore, it’s very important to use them wisely.
There are endless possibilities as to why a patient may come to see a doctor. Whatever may be the reason there are only 10 minutes per consultation. Also, it’s possible that patient may have waited weeks, if not months, to see the doctor. It doesn’t matter how long patient wait; they only get 10 minutes. Despite the significant challenges, ageing population and their multiple co-morbidities, the consultation time remains sadly static.
Until recently I had a feeling of despair whenever I had a thought that I only have 10 minutes per consultation. Although I’m silently hopeful that things might change and doctors may be allowed longer consultation times, I have come to accept, even to embrace, that change is not likely to come in the near future (in the context of staff shortages, increased workload etc) and 10-minute consultations are here to stay. The tragic gap (1) between the reality and possibility is here to stay and, as Palmers says, best way forward is to embrace the gap and learn to stand in the gap by holding the both poles.
I, therefore, have shifted my thinking from ‘I only have’ to ‘I have’ 10 minutes. This shift in thinking is enabling me to stay present and focused.
Now, I am more intentional of ‘what I say,’ ‘do’ and ‘how I be’ during the consultations. For example, I am practicing being “present,” listen and focus attentively on the patient’s narrative rather than worrying about the time constraints. In addition, I am creating time and space for myself to stop, listen and reflect. This skilful means is helping me to stand in the tragic gap and enjoy my work. I enjoy what I do and twenty years from now, I still want to say with passion that I am enjoying what I do.
Reference: (1) Parker J Palmer: A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life; 2009