Saturday, November 15, 2014

Impersonal Training

I recently decided to sign up for the paid services of a Personal Trainer at the fitness center I use so that I could strengthen neglected parts of my body.

I ended up with a competent man who could only be called an Impersonal Trainer. Like so many people I encounter in the health field, he had no "people skills."  He never called me by name or tried to assess my overall ability to do some of the stretches he proposed. And he seemed to be in a hurry. His first comment to me, in the way of personal conversation, concerned how busy he was that week.

And when I saw him later, he didn't bother to ask how I was doing with the new program he had demonstrated because he apparently didn't remember me.

Why do such people enter the healthcare professions?  They are knowledgeable and probably do good work but have no training in what used to be called "the bedside manner." Many seem to dislike working with people!  Luckily, my family doctor and dentist not only refer to me by name but look at me, listen, and talk with me without any sense of rush. They are the models of how medical practitioners should be, but they are the exception.

Most of the technical aides and other doctors I encounter prefer to look at their charts or computer versions of my profile rather than at me. They rarely call me by name; if they do, they make minimal eye contact. They do not pay enough attention to me to treat me as a person.

You might excuse this as shyness, yet there is no excuse for poor manners. You might say everyone is overworked, with never enough time to devote to the person being treated. Yet, in the highly personal area of healthcare, when one must learn about and treat another's body, an awareness of the sensitivity of such a situation should call up some measure of respect--or at least simulated caring.

Rushing is, for me, a sign of disrespect: it tells me that the other person's "agenda" is much more important than I am, and it adds to the anxiety involved in any medical visit--even for personal training at a gym.  Am I not worth slowing down for--even for a few minutes?  Does the money I am spending not warrant some real attention?

I cannot, unfortunately, tell the Impersonal Trainer I met that he is incompetent or complain to his superiors since he is otherwise knowledgeable and well-trained. The session we had was useful.

But, like so many others in his profession, he does not know that anyone in the healing professions should do more than provide information: they care about people.  That should be, in a perfect world, the reason therapists, nurses, trainers, and doctors enter the medical field.

But this is not a perfect world. I just don't like being reminded how imperfect it is quite so often.


Ned Kessler said...

I can empathize with what you said, Jerry. I can also smile and recall an encounter I had with an eye doctor who had a well-earned reputation for always being late. This was before I had any of the eye problems that I have now, so my only need was a periodical eye exam to see if I needed any correction.

I booked his very first appointment of the day, figuring that he might be on time for that one, but to my dismay, discovered that in fact he arrived late, very late for even his first appointment of the day. Imagine that.

I think he was at least a half-hour late, maybe even later than that, which is awful. When he finally came in to see me, he mumbled an apology. He was sorry for being late, he said. I was deep into the Stephen Covey material at the time, and I knew his excuse was insincere and not true. So when he told me he was sorry, without any advance thought about my response, I said to him, "No you're not." He asked me what I meant. I told him that I understood he was late every morning, (his assistant had confided in me, but I had inside information from another source, too.) and that told me that he didn't care about being on time. If you really want to be on time, I told him, you'd leave the house earlier. It's that simple. He basically confessed that I was right. he was always late, and he really ought to change. I encouraged him and told him he could do it if he really wanted to. He apologized to me again and told me he really does want to change, and he would try. Then he went on with the exam and we parted. The upshot?

My wife went to hip later and he was late. Very late. I never went back to him again!! This story always gets laughs when it comes up at family gatherings. I never intended to be a jerk to him, I simply was being mater of fact and tried to help him to see that the reason for his lateness was within himself.

In your case, maybe you could have some fun and ask your Impersonal Trainer if he realizes that he has basically treated you like a sack of flour, and is everything all right in his life? Is this the way he wants to be? It might take him think and could result in an interesting conversation. If you try it, I hope you make another posting about what happened!!!

I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving! Your friendship and your blog are two things I am very thankful for!!

Ned Kessler said...

I noticed a few typos in my comment: wife went to him later