A Little Reverse Psychology!

Click here to read this article in Marathi: भूल भुलैय्या !!

I am going to share with you how I effectively used reverse psychology when I was an anesthesiologist. I was working in a municipal corporation hospital in Mumbai (India) which was far away from my house. Because of the distance, it was not possible for me to preround on patients the day before they were set to receive anesthesia for their surgery in order to check the patient’s fitness and educate them on why they would need to keep a fast before their surgery.

The patients on the operation list were patients who could not afford to go to private hospitals for their surgeries and were on a long waiting list to get operated in municipal corporation hospitals for free of charge.

The surgeons would instruct patients not to take food after midnight and no fluids after 4 am on the day of surgery. I would go early in the morning, round on all the patients on the operating list for that day and decide if they were fit for anesthesia.

During rounds, I learned that patients lie about food eaten because they do not want to postpone their long-waited surgery. During my time doing this, I developed some tricks, and they worked very well.

For example, a conversation I had with a 64-year-old patient who was scheduled for surgery on his spine:

Me: Good morning, Mr. A. How are you?

Mr. A: Morning, madam. I am fine.

Me: So, you are scheduled for your spine surgery today, right?

Mr. A: Yes. I was on the waiting list for this surgery for last 3 months.

Me: Great! Did you eat or drink anything since morning?

Mr. A: No, not at all! I was told not to eat or drink anything. I ate my dinner around 10 pm last night and had some water before 4 am. That’s it!

Me: That’s fine. But, look, it is a big surgery and it might take a while to finish. I honestly think, you should have taken at least one cup of tea.

There would be a period of silence, and you could tell that he was confused and did not know what to say.

My words were so assuring, he would trust me and slowly told me that he had a cup of tea just 30 minutes ago. My next step would be making him to trust me more!! 😉

Me: Wow!! I am glad that you had at least one cup of tea. Looking at your age and type of surgery, it would have been much better if you had some food along with tea. Only one cup of tea will not be sufficient. You might feel dizzy without food.

His eyes sparkled and with faint smile on his face, he said, “actually, I ate heavy breakfast too”!

Me: Clap! Clap! Clap! 👏👏👏

Once I squeezed the correct information from patients, my next job was to educate them about why they need to fast before surgery. I explained to him that, his stomach should be empty during surgery. After giving general anesthesia, people lose consciousness and if they eat or drink before surgery, the food/water can go to their lungs and create complications (choking and pneumonia). Once I am sure that they understood the importance of fasting before surgery, I would reschedule them for the next operating day. I knew that these patients were going to be very compliant with the instructions given to them before they left the hospital.

My assistants and nurses liked the way I was using reverse psychology to get the correct information because it was a simple way to get accurate and important information from the patient.

By using reverse psychology, I was able to achieve multiple things. I was able to avoid all possible complications due to food/drinks in the stomach during surgery by getting TRUE history out of patients. I would get opportunity to educate them properly. They were assured that they would be on the surgery list for the next day, so their noncompliance wouldn’t cost them too much time. The whole interaction would always be in a light and playful mood. In this way I was able to build trust with my patients.

This is how I used reverse psychology technique super effectively and positively! 😊 

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