So Easy to Lose, So Hard to Get Back
"I should give her some vodka. That would make her feel much better. Ha ha!" You would think that a statement like this would be made at a bar or a party. Unfortunately, it was made by the emergency room doctor, as he chuckled with the nursing staff about my grandmother's pain.
Maybe I'm lacking a sense of humor here, but I did not find the statement to be even remotely funny. Neither would my grandmother have, if I had shared this with her as she laid semi-naked in severe pain on a gurney. Yes, she is Russian, but she does not even like vodka. And that's beside the point. This was not the right time or the place for making this statement, even if it was "behind the scenes" at the nursing station. Patients and families are not deaf.
Humor in medicine can be a powerful ice breaker as long as it's used correctly and appropriately. It can "lighten up" a difficult situation but it can also create barriers. In my eyes, the ED doctor, despite his good clinical skills and reasoning, was unprofessional after making his 5-second remark. His unprofessionalism negatively impacted our trust in him as a provider. It took less than 5 seconds to accomplish that.
Patients, as they lay on the hospital bed, semi-covered in a gown, feel vulnerable physically and emotionally. Trust becomes even more important to them in these circumstances. Let us not break it with a 5-second remark. We might get a few giggles, but we will lose something more important in the process - their trust.
I will leave you with a quote (by an unknown author) that reflects well how delicate and important trust is: "Trust is so easy to lose, and the hardest thing in the world to get back. To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved."