Ah, the joys of beanplating
January 6, 2014 4:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm doing a research project that involves collecting a large number of patient samples. Objectively, I'm doing fine so far, but I'm finding the process very stressful, especially the part where I have to talk to their clinicians. Is there a way I can streamline it to make it less anxiety-inducing for me? Please advise, as I'm a little embarrassed to ask my supervisor.

The project involves collecting quick non-invasive samples from patients at a hospital. After defining the patient inclusion criteria with my supervisor, he pretty much set me loose on the hospital, so for the past few weeks I've been wandering around the different departments, kit in hand, collecting samples. I'll set up shop in a different department each day, introduce myself to whichever clinicians are there, try and get a sense of their schedule, and step in when I feel it's appropriate (usually at the start or end of the appointment). The process takes a few minutes, mostly me talking to the patient, asking them some questions, then taking the sample. I also have to ask the clinician questions about the patient.

My main concerns are:

-- Initially I was doing this in the clinician's bay, but it started to feel disruptive. I found that the best way was to set up my own bay, so I could take the patient at the end of the appointment and that way the dentist wouldn't have to worry about running late. This still involves keeping tabs on which patients are finishing up soon, so I can whisk them away. That means a lot of hovering and walking around the edges of the bays, which I find aimless and annoying, and the nurses probably do too.

-- I thought about staying in the same department for a week at a time, to allow people to get familiar with me and adopt a routine, but not all the same dentists are there every day, and not all departments are open every day.

-- I'm finding it hard to find the balance between being pushy enough that I get enough samples, but not so obnoxious that I get told to stay away permanently. I constantly worry that I'm bothering the dentists, from the first introduction, to the part where I take the patient, to the part where I come back and ask questions. They have tight schedules and always look so damn busy.

-- I can be very bubbly and chatty when I need to be, but get pushed off balance easily. At the slightest sign of annoyance, or recalcitrance on the dentist's part, I immediately back off. I'm hesitant to impose on even the friendliest, most helpful ones. I feel like I could have collected way more by now if I hadn't hesitated on so many opportunities. Also, when I'm distracted/tired/anxious I do the full 180 to being more aloof and abrupt, with less chatty filler, and then people tend to avoid me. There's no middle ground.

I'm not doing badly at all - my supervisor seemed pleased with the amount I have so far, and I'm well on track to reach my quota before the deadline in two weeks. I CAN just slog through the bad bits, and don't get me wrong, I actually do like this project. I just dread going to the hospital every day and I dread having to talk to everyone, and the thousand little 'no's really wear on the ego after a while. This weird rejection therapy isn't helping me at all. I've gone back to subconsciously clenching my teeth and grinding them at night - surely there's a better way of doing this that will allow me to sleep properly.

If I were just a researcher who didn't have to see these people again, I wouldn't worry so much. But I'm actually a dental student so this is a fantastic networking opportunity. I'm enjoying getting to meet the dentists and nurses, but I don't want to leave them with a bad impression for when I'll be there in future.

I won't end up seeing my therapist until the project ends, so until then, any advice you can offer me would be appreciated.
posted by cucumber patch to Human Relations (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Is there a Nursing Supervisor that covers all the departments that you could talk to? They may be able to introduce you around or send out an email to alert everyone to your presence and our procedure, and they could certainly clue you in to where and when would be your best bets.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:19 AM on January 6, 2014

Best answer: It sounds to me like something which can not be done more efficiently. Basically, you need something extra from a bunch of people and in a lot of organizations, there unfortunately, probably isn't a more efficient way than talking and talking to a lot of people and spending the time to explain to them what you want, what you need to do and answering all their questions.

You could do the following:

1. Ask a supervisor or your boss or another important person to send an email to everyone. You will stay need to contact them when you go to them. They may or may not have read the email.

2. You could announce your research at a meeting in which you stand up and explain what you are doing.

Although it isn't nice, I think this is a situation where any short cut (by skipping the talking and talking part) will end up costing more time in the end.

Congrats. It seems like a tough job and it sounds like it is going well.
posted by jazh at 5:40 AM on January 6, 2014

Memailing you.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:51 AM on January 6, 2014

Best answer: Can you bring something for the clinicians? Like candy (um, maybe not for dentists... fruit?), or flowers, or even a thank-you card? Basically acknowledging that yes, what you're doing is more work for them but you really appreciate their effort?
posted by mskyle at 7:24 AM on January 6, 2014

Best answer: Are you contacting the clinicians or other staff before you go? This seems like something people might be more willing to say "yes" to if they get a letter or email to schedule it rather than having you just showing up in front of them asking if you can screw up their flow for the day. Identify the right person in each department (office manager? Nursing supervisor? Someone else?) and write something like:

"hi, I'm a student in doing research with [supervisor] and i'm doing [research project] that requires samples from [population.] I've identified your department as one that might have a relevant patient population for my study. If possible, I'd like to come to your clinic some time next week to get samples from your patients. It shouldn't be disruptive to your schedule, as all you'd need to do to help me is direct patients to my station at the end of their appointment and fill out a quick 3-question survey about the patient to help with my research. Would one of the following dates/times work for you and your staff?...."
posted by juliapangolin at 7:30 AM on January 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yes to speaking to the dentists at a departmental meeting, although that should have been done by the PI before the study started.

Each day, you go up to the dentist(s) that you'll be working with before you start data collection, introduce yourself and the study as you have been doing, but then say "when would be the most convenient time for me to talk to the patients and collect the samples for the study? And when would you like me to catch you to ask the questions about the patient that we need?" They'll say something like "oh, why don't you set up over here, talk to the patients and collect the samples at the beginning, and then you can ask me all the questions during my break at 10am" or whatever. You say "that sounds great. If there's any time when I'm interrupting or you're too busy to talk, just let me know what time would be good to approach you again."

Right now, you're just trying to guess what they want and how they feel, and that's what's stressing you out. Ask them directly what they want you to do and give them a specific way to politely deal with it if you're bothering them, and if you're still obsessing about whether you're bothering them or not after that, you probably need to give a little thought to therapy about social anxiety, or at least do a little roleplaying with someone else in your study/the PI/your significant other so that you feel more comfortable having these conversations.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:54 AM on January 6, 2014

Best answer: Is there any way to view this as you doing them a favor? I used to feel like this about a project, but when I switched jobs and was the one being "bothered," I realized that I really appreciated the person doing the job I used to do. They were making it possible for me to make my own work part of something bigger. Any chance that's true here?
posted by salvia at 6:42 PM on January 7, 2014

Best answer: Will the research be directly useful to the dentists and nurses later on? If you can introduce yourself to them and keep in your head that in a while, this will result in Research Document XYZ that is useful, then you may feel like you're providing a service of value to them, not just taking up time.

If you know which clinics you'll be staking out for the day, what about buying a coffee/tea for the nurse or receptionist in charge and asking them to please direct patients over to you at the end (just before bill paying or whatever step for example) so you don't interrupt the flow of the office. Basically, bring a token gift of coffee and ask them how to fit you in so that you know you are not in anyone's way.

I wouldn't count the no answers. Set yourself a high daily quota and count how many positives, then reward yourself with a muffin or 20-minute break or whatever when you get there.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:47 AM on January 8, 2014

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