Words With Patients

Let me set up the scene. I had just met my patient and examined her in her room. She was an older woman. She was an inpatient (meaning she was staying at the hospital). We were discussing a possible trip to the OR that day. I wasn’t sure if she would go that day or if the surgery would have to wait.

Nevertheless, our conversation was pleasant and I felt that we had fairly good rapport. We laughed and smiled throughout the conversation even though she was obviously anxious about surgery. And then this conversation happened:

Me: Well, it was good meeting you. I’ll probably see you later today. If you’re here tomorrow, then I’ll see you then too.
Her: If I’m here? Where would I go?

I sensed the panic in her voice. She sounded like I had just casually mentioned that her future existence was in question.

My only thought was that she could have gone home after surgery since I didn’t think the procedure was too serious. But poor, lady. She was thinking more negatively than I anticipated.

And once again, I was reminded how important communication really is. And seemingly innocent remarks can be understood in a completely different light that it was originally intended.

Oh, and I did clarify what I meant as soon as I heard her reaction. And we laughed again.

  • Oh my! What a funny story. It’s a good reminder of how important it can be to choose our words carefully. I’m glad she was able to laugh about it once you’d clarified things.