The Encounter

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Recently, I had an encounter. It was towards the end of one of those weeks, EMR issues, no patient records, staff shortages, lots of charts piling up…life is different for us all, and your situation will fit your struggles, but you know what I am talking about.

Because of the challenges, once again, my first afternoon clinic consult started much later than scheduled. The patient spoke no English and the interpreter was running late. Thankfully, her husband spoke a bit of English, so I decided it best to start. I began by discussing the reason for the consult and my findings, at a deliberately slow pace, in hope he could understand and be able to translate to his wife, all while hoping the interpreter will soon arrive. As I was speaking, I realized that my earlier – non-clinical, non-patient driven aggravations were coming through my voice and were delivered to this family in need. I sounded short and non-caring. In that moment I remembered how it felt when I could not understand a word in English. Scared, alone, not knowing. I was re-directing my frustrations towards the people I vowed to help and to heal through my Hippocratic oath. I stopped, cleared my voice, and I said kindly: “I am your doctor, let’s please start from the beginning.”

Take home message:
Because a system is inefficient, broken, and put pressure on me, the clinician, I became a delivering tool of frustration, and negatively affected how I delivered care to my patient. I know frustration happens to you too. To all of us. BUT it is only up to us to recognize it, address it by taking a pause, think it through, take a deep breathe, and putting an end to it. Because we, the clinicians, the firefighter, the day care worker, are have the same challenges. In my case, I’ll always remain the force between patients and health organizations. The patient-clinician relationship is sacred.

Keep the torch burning.

Dr. Luissa K

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