I think most people have heard the old adage you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. In my line of work, it mostly applies to the patients rather than to the doctors. Certain patients of mine, who may or may not have been under the influence of illegal substances at the time, have been absolutely flabbergasted that I have dared call their actions stupid. They simply can't believe that their doctor doesn't have to be nice to them. One of my many drunk drivers actually called me a bastard (yes, seriously) because I told her to her face that her drinking and driving was incredibly stupid. Imagine that - calling me a bastard. Hm.
don't misunderstand me - the vast majority of the time, I'm extremely
polite and courteous to my patients. While that is true, the opposite
often isn't. Somehow certain people have this notion that it's ok to be
nasty to the people trying to take care of them and/or their loved
A patient of mine a little while back was involved in a motorcycle accident, and he suffered an open fracture
of his lower leg. He required multiple surgeries by my orthopaedic
surgery colleagues, but this left him with a large open wound for which I
needed to do a skin graft. I explained this to him in great detail
(like I always do), and he acted as he always did with me - calm,
polite, and respectful.
His mother, on the other hand...
got a call the night before surgery, and before his mother even
introduced herself she launched into an all-out attack that would make
even Attila the Hun proud.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY SON? WHAT SURGERY DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING ON HIM? WHY DOES HE EVEN NEED IT?"
allowed her to vent at me for a full 5 minutes before calmly explaining
what I intended on doing and why he needed the skin graft. And
then...she got personal:
"HOW LONG HAVE YOU EVEN BEEN A DOCTOR? DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING? MY SON WILL NOT BE YOUR GUINEA PIG! I WILL NOT LET YOU EXPERIMENT ON HIM!"
No. NO. You can ask all the questions you want and you can even yell at me if it makes you feel better, but you may not
call my professionalism into question. Right then I interrupted her,
something I almost never do, and I told her that I categorically refuse
to have a conversation with her if this was how she chose to speak to
Before she launched
another barrage I told her to think very carefully about how she spoke
to the person who was trying to save her son's leg.
More silence. And then she hung up on me.
the...? I actually stared at the phone for a few seconds,
incredulous. After several attempts at trying to call her back, she
finally called me back 10 minutes later. She was profusely apologetic,
she just wanted what was best for her son etc etc. I told her that
didn't excuse the way she spoke to me nor hanging up on me. Incredibly, she agreed with me and apologised again. It was like I was speaking to a different person.
The skin graft surgery went very well, and he went home a few days later.
may surprise you that being nice isn't in my job description. While I
usually am nice, my actual job is to fix you up, get you back home in
one piece, and possibly educate you so you don't make the same stupid
mistake again. Until this little episode I wasn't aware that part of my
job was to give people an education in manners.