Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Lony C. Castro, professor and chairwoman of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Western University of Health Sciences, writes in the LA Times: If a doctor's visit is going badly, you can start over---Maybe the physician was distracted. Or spoke too quickly. Whatever the communication problem, take a deep breath and try again. Sometimes doctor and patient benefit from a second take.
This happened to me, although in an inpatient setting. The family was very angry because they had brought their mother to the ER--twice---with symptoms of a stroke. I couldn't understand why she wasn't admitted to the unit at the first visit so I was angry with the physician for putting me in this position. After a heated discussion with the daughter, I took a deep breath and said, "I'm sorry. I hate having to apologize for another healthcare provider's mistake. Can we start over?"
This was all it took to help them realize I was distressed by this injustice and we were in it together. I had some Red Dress pins in my office. When I was finished assessing the patient, I grabbed a handful and gave one to each daughter. I explained to them they were each at risk for stroke because of their mother's history and this was an opportunity for them to make lifestyle changes that could delay or prevent this occurrence for them.
Do-overs allow you to take a deep breath and start with a clean slate. If it's not your fault, then it allows the other person a little grace. And God knows, we can all do with a little of that now and then.