"You're not doing nothing, Doctor."
From time to time, I have to deal with unhappy patients or staff members. This is part and parcel of the job, and it is why we undertake many hours of communication skills training to deal with these situations effectively. Shouting, swearing and name calling I can deal but the title phrase irks me every time I hear it, and whenever I do, I always try to confront it.
Obvious double negative notwithstanding, this is the only phrase I hear at work that really makes me cringe because it is so obviously fallacious. I understand long waits and being in pain do not mix well and I can understand people's frustration but the initial consultation is not usually where I hear this phrase and if I do I tend to apologise for their wait and implement some resolution to this.
I usually hear this phrase from people with whom have had repeated interactions with healthcare professionals with repeated investigations, treatments and consultations. Now I understand people remaining in pain which hasn't been diagnosed and treated can be frustrating but telling me I haven't done anything to help hurts, as that's what I am there for.
This may not have been the best way to handle such a complaint but I challenged the assertion of the last person who told me "You're not doing nothing, Doctor."
In an effort to show the person that we were taking them seriously I presented all of their pathology, radiology, endoscopy, microbiology and histology results as well as every consultation in the notes with a HCP and every dose of pain relief, anti emetic and vital sign observation. I normally take a much more conciliatory tone but it is something in the phrase that is accusatory about our teams perceived collective laziness which is just untrue. Fortunately, this approach worked as we came to a better understanding of the others position and managed to work out where we could go next.
I sense most of these type of complaints aren't malicious and usually can be dealt with at the bedside as they stem from frustration and fear rather than a true attempt to declare our service inadequate. Most offers to speak to our complaint department are rebuffed. However sometimes, and this is only my observation, but many of the people who use the phrase are younger and have an expectation that whatever is causing their pain can be diagnosed and sorted out immediately. The reality of the situation is sometimes at odds with a patients expectation of instant relief.
Sometimes an adequate explanation of what is going to happen at the start of the consultation can help prevent this sort of problem. For example when a patient presents with abdominal pain and the diagnosis of appendicitis is equivocal it is accepted practice to enact a period of "watchful waiting" where we measure vital signs and blood tests over 24 hours to see if there is any resolution/deterioration. This is because some things that mimic appendicitis can disappear on their own and appendicitis usually deteriorates. It helps identify patients who would not benefit from an invasive procedure (appendicectomy).
However if patients do not know that this is our plan, then they can understandably become upset when in 24 hours they only have 4 or 5 BP readings to show for their stay. This is our responsibility to ensure patients are fully involved in our decision making process.
So there are two ways I see that I can hear a reduction in the use of these phrases. Firstly, adequate communication and expectation setting by the HCP treating the patients and secondly some patient education on what they can expect from their health care system.
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