Here’s How You Don’t Apologize
In the beginning of January, I went to the ED with symptoms that I was certain were the hallmark of my cancer recurring. The trip to the ED was, to put it kindly, sub-par. I decided to write to the hospital CEO after the ED nurse manager refused to return my calls. My letter was forwarded to the medical director of the ED. This is the point where things really went off the rails.
I received a letter from the medical director, dripping in sarcasm and personal jabs. Apparently, even if you try to advocate for yourself in this ED, it’s not enough, because according to this doctor, he was “sorry” that I did not communicate my concerns “in a more comprehensive fashion that would have addressed the concerns I raised in my letter.”
Let’s just think about this for a minute. Should someone who went to medical school, completed internship and residency need a patient to explain the ramifications of pain, nausea, early satiety (getting full after eating very little), and abrupt onset of edema in a patient with a history of late-stage ovarian CA? Not in my opinion, but perhaps I ask too much.
The ED doctor refused to send me for a CT scan, according to this doctor, because there was the possibility that my gyn. oncologist (who wasn’t in the office that day) might order a PET scan. He didn’t want me exposed to two doses of radiation. Why? What was he afraid would happen…that I’d get cancer? The train already left that station.
He also said he was sorry that I “felt” like no one interacted with me during the time I was in the ED, and that I didn’t “feel” like I was checked enough. I didn’t “feel” that way. I lay there for 4-5 hours with no one coming in the room to see if I needed anything. (Like, you know, something for the pain and nausea that in part drove me there to begin with.)
How should he have apologized? For starters, not by making a patient bear the burden of making sure his/her doctor knows how to proceed when “x+y symptoms” show up in the ED. Sending the patient a letter that is free of snide/sarcastic comments is another one.
I’ve had to apologize to patients as a nurse at times when I didn’t think I should have had to. Too bad…it’s part of the job. You suck it up, you try to make it right, and try to let the patient know you’ll do better next time.
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