This week the biggest challenge was being confronted by an angry/upset patient.
I have been involved in difficult, emotional, challenging situations on placement before but this has always been as part of the medical team. This week I was confronted by an angry and upset patient on my own. The wait to see a doctor was long, so I was asked to work my way through the patients in advance, taking a brief history, blood tests and other simple investigations to speed up the results and the wait when the doctor managed to see them. For the most part it was no trouble, but one patient was particularly distressed by the wait and made their feelings known to me as well as asking many questions about my role and the department’s system. They were questions that were impossible to answer with any certainty and after asking a senior for guidance my answers were still unsatisfactory to the patient.
It was interesting to reflect on how I responded to the questions and comments from the patient. It was hard not to take all of the criticisms personally, when actually the patient was only expressing their hurt and annoyance at the system and situation they found themselves in. I took a while to remind myself afterwards that it was not my personal fault that that person had waited for … minutes before being seen. It was hard to shake off the feelings of upset, guilt and disappointment however. This event caught me off guard as I was suddenly ‘on the front line’ with upset and distressed patients.
It made me realise two things. Firstly, there are probably many shop assistants, managers, receptionists etc who are on the ‘front line’ with me when I am distressed and upset about a situation- perhaps I need to think more about how I respond in this situation. Secondly, I need to build up my emotional armour- next year I will be more and more ‘on the front line’ with patients who are experiencing a range of emotions and situations, and I will have a lot of responsibility in everything I write or do on the wards.