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

Patience With Patients


Consider the challenges you experience when trying to make changes in your daily habits. Remember to praise your patient’s progress no matter how small. 

My patient didn’t follow my recommendations. I felt frustrated. Why didn’t they follow them? Upon reflection, I realized it was an opportunity to recognize that lasting habits and changes require patience and time. 


Humans naturally fear the new and unknown. If we had a choice, our infant selves might prefer to stay in the dark, warm, and safe womb forever. We would think staying in the womb meant safety, but we would be wrong and eventually die if we didn’t leave. The stakes may not be so great with our patients, though the idea of change and leaving the comfort of the known can be scary.  


As clinicians we need to consider this challenge for patients. If we want to see changes in their life, we must also be delighted with our patients’ first small attempts and stumbles that occur, just like a parent thrilled with their baby’s first steps. We must be pleased with our patients’ efforts and encourage them to keep going until lives have improved.  


Here are two things I’ve learned along my journey toward patience with patients: 


1. Progress doesn’t happen over night.

Change can feel challenging and will take time. 


2. Affirm each small step.

Our goal is to help patients move toward better health, and any movement in that direction should be praised.  








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