You don’t even have to be a real Star Trek fan to remember that each episode began with the statement “Space—the final frontier”. If you think about it, space is also one of the original frontiers.
People have always gotten in each other’s face….sometimes as a way to intimidate; sometimes because the nature of the communication requires it.
We routinely see professional athletes, politicians, actors and more standing nose to nose, staring at each other, each waiting for the other to look away first. Getting in another person’s face, or even getting in their space is a strong method of communicating, whether we mean it that way or not.
Most of us have experienced the discomfort of having someone standing too close. We may have physical reactions to this– or certainly psychological reactions.
Many factors influence or impact our comfort and need for personal space. Culture, age, gender, situations are just a few. In our culture, a general rule is that we don’t want anyone within about eighteen inches of us, but there is an exception. We make an exception for a person with whom we are intimate and who poses no threat.
There is no deep psychological reason for this; it simply means that we don’t want to be vulnerable.
Think about a visit to a doctor or dentist. Because of the nature of healthcare, we know that someone is going to get into our space, and while just knowing that might make it bearable, it doesn’t make it comfortable.
Doctors, dentists, nurses, and other healthcare workers routinely invade a patients’ personal space. To complicate matters even more, they may be shining a very bright light, or holding a hypodermic needle. To the healthcare worker, this may be a frequent occurrence during the course of a work day.
And therein lies the danger.
The frequency can make the task routine to the healthcare work, but not to the patient. Healthcare workers may see dozens of patients each day and what may seem routine to them, can feel like an invasion to the patient. To some, it may even feel like a violation. For many patients, this invasion (or violation) can be one the most intimidating and uncomfortable aspects of the healthcare journey. Healthcare workers may become numb to the feelings of the patient because they are so close to so many patients, so many times each day.
Putting the patient at ease takes intentional focus on the part of the healthcare worker. It also takes practice.
There are “Tips & Takeaways” that we teach in the Passion for Patients™ Workshops that will make these situations easier for everyone. Our Workshops provide training to healthcare workers on how to overcome the challenge of personal space, as well as a variety of other topics designed to make the healthcare journey positive from start to finish. Contact us at 602-677-1614 for specific information on how to make your practice the healthcare provider of choice.