Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to motivate your patients (and yourself)

Health Promotions is quickly becoming my favorite class here at Penn. Our professor Dr. G. is so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I especially love when she says “I always tell my patients…” It reminds me to tie what we are learning back to clinical practice. We’re learning how to be effective communicators, how to take what’s piling up in our brain (parietal laminences foramen lacerum progesterone TCA cycle) out in communication to help our patients.

I’m learning all about how to take better care of my own teeth. But we’re also learning how to get our patients to take better care of their teeth. Unless your parents are dentists or you are married to a dentist, you don’t have a dentist around 24/7 to tell you what to do. If you want a smile as bright as Joe Biden’s- from the VP debates (Can I get his dentist on the hotline please?)…


- Floss daily.
- Brush your teeth twice a day with Fl- toothpaste.
- Snack less frequently.
- Cut down on sodas and coffee.
- Balance your macronutrients and cut down on sugary junk foods.

This week we focused on how to motivate our patients. Prochaska’s Stages of Change theory says people go through different stages when thinking about change.


Picture source

As healthcare providers, when someone walks into our office thinking about a healthier lifestyle change (quitting smoking, treating gum disease, better nutrition, better oral health habits), our goal is to move them onto the next stage.

For example, I have a friend who’s trying to get into shape.  Every morning she tells me “I’ve been eating healthy today!” Then around 8PM I’ll get a text from her saying “I just ate five brownies and seven slices of pizza. Better luck tomorrow!” I reply: “Me too!”

We’re not in Action yet- we’re just lightly Contemplating getting into shape. We’re in Contemplation because so far it’s been all words and no action.

I especially enjoyed this lecture because I think I’ve been stuck in Contemplation about many aspects of my life. I feel stuck in a rut. Recognizing that I don’t need to suddenly jump from 0 to Action is nice. I just need to slowly move myself into Preparation then into Action.


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