Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

How to Improve Clinician-Patient Connections, Part 2


I almost always run late in clinic. By having a growth mindset, I’ve reframed this as an opportunity to improve.  

Connecting with Patients | February 7, 2022 | 2 min read

By Christine Ko, MD, Yale University

Last month, I wrote an overview piece for CLOSLER entitled, Cognitive Psychology and Patient-Clinician Connections. Today I’ll expand on the idea of a growth mindset. There’s a great deal of relevant information about Dr. Carol Dweck’s’ growth mindset that can guide clinicians in strengthening connections with their patients.  


The growth mindset

Dweck’s “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” explains how a growth mindset will expand your life in all arenas. I know this has been true for me. A growth mindset welcomes “failure,” reframing it as a challenge to be faced and conquered. Growth is the goal, and it’s not “success” that counts.  


At home: cooking with a growth mindset  

I never learned how to cook when I was younger, and with one picky eater at home, it’s a challenge to create healthy meals that everyone’s excited to eat. Rather than getting frustrated, angry, or disappointed (at least most of the time! growth mindset in action!) when I think my cooking has “failed,” I focus on the opportunity to learn from what worked and what didn’t. 


At work: staying on time with a growth mindset 

I’m prone to running one or two minutes late in clinic, but sometimes more. I don’t want others to think that I value my time more than theirs, yet I often “fail” at being on time. When I reframe this as a challenge, it becomes a way to improve and look for potential solutions.  

 First, I’ve learned to never overbook. Second, during the pandemic with staffing shortages and increased precautions, I’ve increased each patient visit to be 20 minutes long (I also recognize this is a luxury that not everyone can implement). Finally, I try to evaluate before and after each patient (or at least every hour), checking the time I enter the room, the time I leave, and how long the patient was waiting for me. 


The opposite of a growth mindset 

A growth mindset can apply to anything that you do. You work toward improvement, seek out challenges, are okay with things not feeling easy, and expect “failures.” Dweck terms the opposite of a growth mindset a “fixed mindset:” talent and innate smarts are paramount, effort means I’m never going to be good enough, and failing means I’m a failure. 


A fixed mindset is extremely punitive, proven to be detrimental in schools as kids learn, and certainly not beneficial for your own psyche. The beauty of a growth mindset is that it gives grace and space. I can do better, and that doesn’t mean I’m “bad.” It means I’m growing.  


I wrote much more about this in my recent book, “How to Improve Connection: Using Psychology in Optimize Healthcare Interactions.”






This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.