Making Recommendations: What to do When you don’t Know What to do

If you haven’t come across a situation where you don’t know what to do, you probably haven’t been asked enough questions.  Making recommendations is not easy sometimes.  Getting questions when you don’t know the answer is part of life and growing as a professional.  It is hard to admit you don’t know something, but I think it does get easier with time.  Here’s what I do when I have no idea how to answer a clinical question.

  1. Ask more questions.  Most drug info questions I get asked have more to the story and I’m not a big fan of giving a recommendation without a little background information.  Be sure that you get to the heart of the question when discussing a clinical concern.
  2. Assess the urgency of the request.  If someone is asking about when to stop alendronate in an elderly patient, and you aren’t sure what to say, this is a perfect example of something that doesn’t need to be answered right away and you can do a little research and get back to them.
  3. Research.  Admitting that you don’t know something is very important, but maybe more important is doing some research and see if you can find a potential solution. This is usually my first step when trying to answer a difficult question.
  4. Lean on a colleague.  Let’s say I get a question about oncology or HIV treatment; two areas I am not the strongest in.  I will seek out experts in these areas to look for guidance if an answer isn’t easily identifiable.
  5. Empathize with the person asking the question.  Usually when there isn’t a good answer, it is a difficult question from a healthcare professional.  When I get asked questions without a good answer, I definitely try to empathize with them and acknowledge that what they are asking is a very difficult question.

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Written By Eric Christianson

September 27, 2017

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