You may not know it all, but you are an expert

As a healthcare journalist, I'm usually the one asking the questions--of practice managers, administrators, physicians, nurses, consultants or other resources in some element of physician practice management. These professionals don't charge me for their time, which is often greater than the length of a typical office visit. In this context of reporting, it's not necessary for me to be pushy or intrusive. Persistent? Very. But once I make my way onto a source's calendar, the phone interview that ensues is typically less rushed and more candid than either party might have expected.

The beauty of what I get to do is that it's not about cross-examining people about what they did or are doing wrong; I'm asking them to share insights into what they're doing right. I also ask about the challenges in making said thing happen mostly right and the lessons learned along the way. When I ask people, "What have you learned about X the hard way that you could spare others?" or "What do you wish you'd known or tried when first beginning X?" they're rarely defensive and most often wonderfully insightful.

Yet many, if not most, of these smart and articulate professionals laugh nervously if I refer to them out loud as "experts."

After all, they're learning as they go. Stumbling and starting over. Giving direction while oftentimes receiving little to none of their own. Maybe they don't fit the dictionary definition of expert: "a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area." But perhaps that depends on what particular area in which one is an authority.

If you ask me, being well-versed in your own challenges, goals and lessons learned in hindsight makes each and every one of you an expert. You're an expert at being you. You are an expert of your practice. You are the definitive authority on what you want to accomplish when you arrive at work each day, and the reasons you keep coming back. Your perspective is valuable because of your awareness that it's a work in progress.

Remember this notion when your practice faces a problem you don't yet know how to solve: Having all of the answers isn't what makes you an expert or a leader in running your practice. Rather, wisdom comes from having the humility to ask questions and learn from experience.

I truly believe each of you doing this work deserves the title of expert. That's why people like me call to ask for details about your accomplishments and struggles. That said, I'm also nervously amused to see the word "expert" next to my own name in a recent interview I did with PracticeSuite. In a twist on my usual role, this time a writer asked me the questions.

Technically, I don't know any more about the changing face of medicine than anyone else, but I do know what I think. And what I think is derived from years of talking with those of you in the trenches. But as I've admitted previously, I don't have first-hand experience from within those trenches. So to enhance my perspective, I'll soon be spending some time within a practice, as a manager at a nearby office has graciously agreed to let me follow her around for a day.

There's a part of me that's afraid this experience will turn everything I've told you thus far on its head, that my status as "expert" will be revealed as a fraud. Chances are, I'll come away from this site visit with more questions than answers. That's OK, though, because it's my job to ask questions. The more I ask, the more information I have to share with you.

And that's where I'm fully comfortable calling myself an expert: In always discovering more about what I don't know. - Deb (@PracticeMgt)