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Mnemonics – Are you on it?

Imagine, you walk into your kitchen and mosey to the fridge to see what you need to pick up at the grocery store but when you open the refrigerator door, fresh, floppy, slippery, slimy red herring pour out all over the kitchen floor until you’re ankle deep in fish, and up to your nose in the smell.

You grimace, and think to yourself, “this calls for a whisky”. Tip-toeing over the field of flopping fish to the living room, something else is off — your grandmother’s antique rug has taken on a whole new texture. Is it shag?  You bend down to look, only to realize that the carpet is made up of thousands of little broccoli florets.

Shaking your head in dreamy disbelief, you pour a wee dram of your favorite single malt scotch into a glass and take a sip.  Instead of notes of oak, sherry, dark chocolate, peat, citrus and spice, you only taste sour.  Whisky doesn’t ever have notes of vinegar — your whisky is vinegar.

Is this a strange dream?  Or a carefully constructed visual scene to help you remember what to buy at the market? Fish, broccoli, vinegar — not a grocery list you will easily forget thanks to the uncanny gift of mnemonics.  Not only limited to tasks and lists, mnemonics can help you navigate the fishy waters of managing your medical practice. Read on to learn how mnemonics can make your sour vinegar medical practice smoother than the finest single malt scotch whisky.

Perhaps you are pondering, “What on earth is a mnemonic?”

Put very simply, a mnemonic device helps you remember something. You can use mnemonics to do everything from memorizing your grocery list to learning Japanese. There are a plethora of different types of mnemonics and several ways to use each of them, but we will simply focus on one – imagery mnemonics.

Take a list, a term, a series of thoughts or a name and turn it into a memorable image – the more ridiculous your imagery, the better. We may not have remembered red herring if we just thought of what the fish looks like, but when you have a torrential flood of fish decimating your kitchen and a silly TV character, it’s much easier to recall.

“All this is fine and dandy,” you may be thinking, “but how does this help my practice?”

Mnemonics can help you memorize patient names (Mary LeFleur had a lavish wedding in a field of lavender) or the order of discussion for the initial patient call (every patient who calls is riding atop a chariot pulled by 3 giant gorillas – the 3 G’s – Gather, Give, Get). They can also help you remember one of the most helpful methods of communicating when the topic gets a bit touchy – the “Oreo cookie.”

Alright, let’s get to the meat of the matter – or rather the creamy filling.

Do you mind if we’re candid with you for a moment? You’re not perfect, and neither are your coworkers, employees, or boss(es). There are awkward moments when you find yourself addressing a colleague for snagging your red Swingline stapler, or when you have to discuss your employee’s tardiness. For the moments that require tact in pointing out a mistake, a flaw, or a misunderstanding, we give to you one of the finest examples of putting mnemonics into practice, our “Oreo cookie” method of communication.

You already know what the filling in the cookie is — that sweet, creamy center of candid – it’s what you really want come right out and say, but have to insulate to soften the blow. You can’t just hand someone a handful of Oreo cream. It has to be delicately sandwiched between delicious, crispy wafers, each bursting with positivity, thus softening the blow of the sickly sweet filling in the middle.

Take your new employee who has shown up late two days in a row. Not a huge deal, and maybe not something you’d fire her over, but an annoyance to you and the other staff that needs to be nipped in the bud. Picture the Oreo cookie, and start with the first layer of chocolatey wafer: “Hey Stacy. You’ve been doing such a great job since you’ve started. We really appreciate all that you’ve done and the level of organization you’ve brought to the office.” Now for the filling: “There is something I’d like to address with you, though, if you have a moment. You have been late the last couple of days and I just wanted to point it out to make sure that you’re aware of it. We need you to simply arrive on time, even slightly prior to the start of the work day to set a good example for the team” And now for the final wafer, “You’ve been a great leader and a lot of the other employees look up to you. I appreciate all you’ve done, and maintaining your own high standards.” If you were the employee, would you be offended? We wouldn’t be. In fact, we’re a little flattered that you think so highly of us, and we want to set a good example for the others, so we’ll be coming in on time from now on – maybe even a bit early.

How about providing realistic expectations to a patient while letting them down easy? Although the patient’s heart is set on a facelift, the doctor doesn’t feel she is a candidate. Picture the Oreo cookie: “Betty, I know that you really wanted that facelift, and it certainly would provide a very dramatic result. In fact, in a few years, I think that you would be a great candidate for that surgery (wafer). However, I think that now is probably not the best time to undergo this procedure. I think that it would be too invasive for the improvement you need to look natural, so I wouldn’t recommend it at this time (cream). The great news is, what we can do for you instead is a combination of laser resurfacing and fillers. This would improve the surface appearance of your skin, enhance volume and lifting, and provide a really nice result, albeit not as dramatic as a facelift. A few years down the road, we can look into undergoing a full facelift (wafer).”

The Oreo cookie method is just as diverse as it is delicious, so think about how else you can sweeten some bad news or a criticism. Read more about unique techniques to manage your practice here and here, or sign up for the 2017 YellowTelescope Training Seminar for a buffet of ideas – and to sweeten the deal, we’re offering interest-free monthly payments until the event and a room with ocean-front views. You can cancel until 45 days prior to the event — there is no risk in signing up now. Reach out to us at info@yellowtelescope.com today!