How to Handle Incorrect Information
I found myself in an awkward situation a few days ago. I had just finished an evaluation in the stroke unit. The OT was preparing to work with the patient, so I gave her a summary of what I had already done so she could be more efficient. I mentioned the patient was a pusher and that I'd already done the education. The OT began her evaluation while I was still standing there. She immediately repeated explaining what a pusher was and in the process, misstated the prevalence of pushers in the stroke population. I don't know what surprised me more. That she repeated the information, or that her information was wrong.
I didn't know exactly what to do when that happened. I didn't want to correct her in front of the patient and family. It wasn't like that particular piece of information mattered in the big scheme of things. Still, it was incorrect which bothered me. I'm not about to say I know everything about strokes or pushers. However, I had just completed a paper examining pusher syndrome with 17 references. In this case, I know my information was accurate. Given the circumstances I made the decision to let it go for the moment. Still, it bothered me.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who has run into this. It's happened to me a few times, though never in front of a patient before. No matter when it happens, it's difficult to know what to do. Sure, I could just let it slide. But that really isn't a good idea. All that does is perpetuate incorrect information being spread. Just because it doesn't make a difference this time doesn't mean there won't come a time when incorrect information will effect a treatment decision. I've done that a few times. Most recently it involved a relatively new grad who didn't want to put ice on a TKR post-op day one. Her reason was the ice would accelerate formation of scar tissue and therefore impair therapy.
I just finished a class project that involved looking at available health-related information and rating it on accuracy. The point of the assignment was to make us aware of how much of what's available to people is incorrect, biased or out of date. We were made aware of this to help us with patient education and assist with finding information for our patients. PTs and OTs are one of the few healthcare disciplines that actually spend meaningful time with patients. As a result, we're often asked questions about things unrelated to therapy. We need to be able to provide accurate and truthful information in return. That's why this situation bothered me.
The solution to my problem was simple. I pulled the OT aside and explained what my research had found. She was surprised but glad for the new information. My problem was solved. I've also heard doctors give incorrect information, almost always about something therapy related, or, and this really kills me, telling someone who isn't ready for gait therapy I will be by to get them up to walk. I'm not suicidal. I'm obviously not going to correct an attending physician. I realize the doc meant well but it just made my job more difficult by setting up an unrealistic expectation. Which is another reason accurate information is important. Part of my job is educating the residents who pass through the unit. This is one of the areas I stress.
It's never easy to tell someone they're wrong. Yet, because we provide so much education and do so much teaching it's important we be correct in what we say. Not everyone takes it well when told they were wrong. Just like not everyone handles confrontation, though mild, well. This may be another example of me being picky. It wouldn't be the first time. Nonetheless, while no two situations are exactly the same, there are times when something needs to be said. I have one piece of advice for those, like me, who have to do something. Say it with a smile. Negatives are easier to take when presented nicely and in a friendly way.