A friend of mine who is a pediatrician told me the following story.
He has a patient who is a little girl with some chronic medical issues. The girl's mother had some legitimate issues with the nursing care that the girl was receiving while hospitalized as an inpatient. Although this was not the pediatrician's fault, the mother apparently laid into him, screaming at him publicly for a good five minutes.
Of course, the girl is still hospitalized and he's the pediatrician on the inpatient service right now. So now he has this awkward situation with the patient's mom. He said that if this girl had been one of his clinic patients and he'd been treated that way, he would have requested she find a new doctor. But since the girl is hospitalized and probably will be for another week or so, he's stuck.
"I just have to suck it up," he told me.
That's a rough situation though. Even though the mom screamed at him, she didn't fire him so he's still allowed to see her daughter. Is there really no alternative to treating a person whose family was verbally abusive to you?
Nope. That's one reason hospital medicine sucks so much. At least if they do that to you in anesthesia you usually never have to see them again.ReplyDelete
I've seen people in the hospital demand new nurses until they ran out. Some people are impossible to please. We would always care for those people in pairs, so there would be a witness to any accusations. Ties up staff with other things to do, sigh.ReplyDelete
Completely agree. Anytime he interacts with this parent, he should bring in a witness so she can't just make things up about the interaction.Delete
Honestly, I think that your friend should focus on the fact that her daughter was hospitalized and the mother had legitimate issues with the nursing care and spend less time focused on himself. Does it suck to be yelled at? Yes. Should the woman have expressed herself that way? No. But you can't expect people to behave in the best way all of the time, especially when they're under severe stress. And sometimes, even when the problem wasn't your fault and you shouldn't have to, you have to be the one acting with grace in a difficult situation. He actually has the power to turn the entire dynamic around if he chooses to act with patience and niceness during their upcoming interactions. But deciding that he's been verbally abused and that he ought to be able to retaliate by firing her daughter as a patient-- and thus penalizing her by forcing a change in child's treatment team at an already terrible time--that's being a jerk. It's one week. He shouldn't suck it up. He should let it go.ReplyDelete
I agree. Although would have difficulty with it.Delete
One thing that can help the Dr is to try not to personalize it.
The mother's behavior is not about him or even 100% about the legitimate issues she has with the nursing care. It's about stress and her personality. She's been dealing with chronic health issues with her child and could probably use some help dealing with her feelings.
There may be financial stressors related too this chronically ill child as well.
And of course, who knows what traumas or losses she faced in her own childhood that could be reactivating feelings of helplessness, fear, sadness, powerlessness, rage,etc. x 100.
I guess my question is how much verbal abuse is he obligated to take then? He's a human being as well.Delete
(the mother apparently also really laid into a few staff members too, such as a secretary on the unit who had nothing to do with anything.)
So it's his fault she yelled at him, since he 'didn't turn the dynamic around'? And, of course, he's a bad person for not wanting to deal with someone who is abusive? It is not acceptable for a patient or family member to verbally abuse someone because they're unhappy just like it isn't acceptable to physically abuse someone. And I have never seen administration side with the health care worker on that one. If a patient is causing a hostile work environment, it is a problem.Delete
He's obligated to take absolutely zilch verbal abuse.Delete
He's choosing to take some, on account of child + motherhood. Which totally sucks.
What happens if he throws his hands up and says, nope, not me?
Is there really no way to pass that patient on, or for someone in the hospital administration to deal with the situation (like talk to the mother about no further abuse)? Because that's BS.
Patients are not clients
I agree with the commenters that say to not take it personally. My issue is when patients are super rude to my staff (nurses, clerks) and then they're nice to me. I never call them out on it, but I feel like I should.ReplyDelete
Oh man, I TOTALLY call them on it, and let them know it's not acceptable.Delete
Is there a patient advocate at the hospital with whom the parent could be connected? Like any physician, I've had to work with some challenging patients and family members, and sometimes getting the patient advocate involved has helped to make for smoother and more pleasant interactions.ReplyDelete
I also agree with Anonymous's comment that "He actually has the power to turn the entire dynamic around if he chooses to act with patience and niceness during their upcoming interactions." In my experience, a lot of upset patients/family members can be calmed down if you just listen to them and speak to them in a professional manner, which unfortunately many people in healthcare don't do.
I agree with that. Sometimes I see difficult family members as a challenge to win them over and make them happy. But there are some people who don't want to be won over no matter what you do.Delete
But where do we, as caregivers, draw the line? Why is this a field where we have to accept verbal and physical abuse as just part of the job? I know patients and their families are potentially going through the worst experience of their lives and I feel compassion for them, but why does that automatically entitle them to abandon acting like a decent human being?ReplyDelete
This (among other things) is why there is such a high rate of burnout in health care workers.Delete
Patient's can be "fired", but they need to be given noticed and time to find another physician. At this time the patient or family would only be seen or urgent or emergent needs. We typically will give them resources for finding a new provider.ReplyDelete
It is a little more difficult in a hospital setting. Someone's partner could perhaps see the patient or another member of the medical staff.