We recently discharged a patient and I was the one who had to break the news to her again. The disappointment on her face was apparent and I felt like I was in high school again breaking up a relationship. She stammered and I thought I caught a glimmer of a tear. She was concerned about the continued progress and she mentioned all the effort put into therapy and was afraid it would be lost.
I encouraged her the best I could but still felt bad. We recommended a restorative program for continued maintenance but this did not make me feel any better about it. Now every day when I see her in the hallway I have to say a few encouraging words about how well she does with the restorative program.
We usually give patients several days notice that they will "graduate" from therapy, but on the day of their discharge, if I happen to be working with them, they will voice concern about leaving us. Sometimes I can get the mother bird facade and boot them from the nest but there are many patients who pull at my heartstrings and I hate to be the one to tell them it is their last day.
Alternative words for discharge include: graduate, release, achievement, fulfillment, walking papers and the "old heave ho." For me to sound really cool, I could tell the patient he has to bounce and I will check him on the flip side.